Harvest + Honey

An open-ended love letter, culinarily inspired.


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beet, carrot and ginger soup with coconut milk + a sort of history lesson

Beet, Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk6Beet, Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk5

“Food history is as important as a baroque church. Governments should recognize cultural heritage and protect traditional foods. A cheese is as worthy of preserving as a sixteenth-century building.” – Carlo PetriniBeet, Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk9Beet, Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk2

If I had all the time in the world, I would like very much to learn the origins of all kinds of different foods. Who created the very first lasagna? Who was General Tso, exactly? Why are cakes the chosen confection for birthday celebrations? How did Shoo Fly pie get its intriguing moniker? Actually on second thought, maybe I don’t want to know that one. I was a History major in college, a discipline I chose for the following oversimplified reason: I love a good story. I precisely remember the day I made the switch from Marketing to History, patting myself firmly on the back for my choice. Marketing schmarketing, I thought to myself. I’m going to sit back, relax, and learn the great stories of the world for the next few years. While it may not have been all fairy tales, epic battles and edge-of-your-seat thrill rides, the choice was a solid one. I found that taking tests, writing papers and attending early morning classes were much much more appealing tasks when they all revolved around stories, rather than Econ 101, Business Calc, and Principles of Accounting. That’s just me though. To each his own, of course.Beet, Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk11Beet, Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut MilkBeet, Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk10Beet, Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk4Beet, Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk7

One consistent trend I noticed as I worked my way through my History curriculum was how much I focused on any historical lesson that involved food, and how easily I could recall a specific event, person or place if there was food of some sort involved. I knew that I’d always adored cooking, but I don’t think it was until I became a History student that I realized just how interested in food I really am. It was the catalyst for my learning and literally helped me be a better History student. Some people make up little songs or learning devices to help themselves recall facts and information. Me? I prefer food. From the way pepper contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire to how a simple plough was actually a contributing factor in the start of the Crusades, food has impacted and influenced everything from economics, agriculture, politics and policy to business, science, war strategy, and even space exploration.
I remember sitting in a military history class one afternoon (not my favorite subject, admittedly), when my professor announced that we’d be discussing Napoleon that week. “Delicious!” muttered the boy sitting catty corner from me. I actually turned in my seat to see who this person was who had shared the exact same – totally nerdy and food geektastic – thought. I’m sure I tried to play it off, like I was looking at the clock or something. But our eyes met. I smiled. He smiled. Two hearts beating wildly. Boom – soul mates! I was excited, totally distracted by my millisecond’s worth of a schoolgirl’s daydream, when the teacher called on me to answer a question … a question that I had completely tuned out due to the aforementioned daydreaming. Oops.
So, my dear reader, what may have at first appeared to be a story of love and food-inspired romance is actually just a quick lesson about classroom embarrassment prevention. Pay attention in school, kids. That’s the moral of THIS story.
“The word restaurant (meaning “something restoring”) was first used in France in the 16th century to refer to a highly concentrated, inexpensive soup sold by street vendors that was advertised as an antidote to physical exhaustion. In 1765, a Parisian entrepreneur opened a shop specializing in such soups. This prompted the use of the modern word “restaurant” for eating establishments.

 

RECIPE

The beets, carrots and onions in this recipe will eventually be pureed after they’ve cooked and softened in the pot. So when you’re prepping your food, there’s no need to chop anything too finely or too perfectly. Just try to get them the same size so they cook evenly.

 

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

medium beets, peeled and chopped

1 lb. carrots, roughly chopped

1/2 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1″ piece of fresh ginger, grated

1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

1 teaspoon orange zest

4 cups vegetable stock

2 cups coconut milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Creme fraiche or sour cream for topping

 

Place the first eight ingredients into a large pot over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Add the stock and coconut milk to the pan, stir, and simmer for 45 – 50 minutes, or until the veggies are all soft.

Puree the contents of the pot with an immersion blender or a food processor until smooth.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot with sour cream.

 

 


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burnt milk panna cotta with peppered caramel


Burnt Milk Panna Cotta with Peppered Caramel

How much money would someone have to pay you to eat a dill pickle and grape jelly sandwich with sardines? How about a soup of chocolate pudding and fish stock? If you’re anything like me, you’d do it for a clean $7.00/hr. and not a penny less.

Ahhh babysitting. When I was in high school, I babysat regularly for the little girl who lived right across the street from me, Kelley. She was feisty and fun and creative and a total blast from a babysitter’s perspective. I got lucky with that one. There was, however, one particular game that Kelley would often ask to play that I’m sure required me to stifle a groan or two as I muttered “Awwww mannn!” under my breath. The things we do to keep kids happy … Continue reading


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mississippi mud pie

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetMud17Mud1Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with b1 presetMud21Mud11Mud15Mud20Mud18Mud“Maturity is when you no longer get the urge to make snow angels in mud season.” – Josh Stern 

I have never seen anyone enjoy anything as much as my daughter enjoys the mud. It’s unbelievable. As she plays and splashes and squishes around, I can’t help but wonder what exactly it is that draws her to it with such genuine love and enthusiasm. I mean, it’s just wet dirt right? I guess it’s not my job to understand this, nor is it probable that I actually could. I’m a grownup. I don’t come with that part anymore; the part that we’re all born with that makes us fearful of monsters under our beds, fearless in front of large crowds, and fiercely adoring of all things dirty. Immaturity is the word we’ve given that part, I think. Eventually we lose it and become “mature,” or at least lesser degrees of immature.

Last week, before our little world was covered in a thick blanket of snow, I was wandering around in the yard with Elle, muttering to myself and impatiently lamenting the laundry and cleaning that would inevitably stem from the mud stains that were creeping, ever so gracefully, up the length of her pants and down the sleeves of her little coat. Dangit. What was I expecting though, let’s be honest? Was I actually thinking that she might pass up the infinite selection of mud puddles for a cleaner activity? A nice wagon ride or a game of hopscotch perhaps? Fat chance. That’s never happened. It’s always mud. It has heart heart and since she has mine, to the mud we go.

I wonder though, at what point do we grow up and over and past that childhood adoration of dirty slimy mucky things? Like so many aspects of childhood, this love of all things gross is something that seems to fade away with time. Is it boys? Is it that you decide you want boys to like you so you opt to forgo getting spectacularly dirty in favor of wearing a pretty dress instead? Is it Hollywood? Is it that you want to mimic a beloved movie star or character or someone on the giant silver screen that is far too cool to be rolling around in mud puddles and the like? I guess it’s lots of little things. Little things all piled up on top of one another as childhood rolls along. I can’t imagine Elle waking up tomorrow morning and suddenly declaring that she no longer wants to go outside and play in the mud by the “big road.” No, it doesn’t work that way and I’m glad. Growing up takes time and that’s a good thing. Because as I’m learning more and more with each passing day, time with your little ones is so very sweet. Even with all of my bellyaching over the laundry that I’m doing every day to combat all of the mud, I think I would actually be sad if she just went off it cold turkey.

That “just for the fun of it” phase of our lives where we get to roll around in puddles and make mud pies is so very fleeting, and there is a little bit of sadness in that, even if it does mean that life gets a little bit cleaner afterward. The good news? There’s always chocolate. You’re never too old or too mature for that.

RECIPE

For the crust:

9 chocolate graham crackers (1 sleeve)

1/2 cup chopped pecans

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

 

For the filling:

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

3/4 cups granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 eggs

 

For the whipped cream topping:

1.5 cups cold heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons finely chopped pecans

 

To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Process the graham crackers and pecans in a food processor until finely ground and well combined. Add the melted butter and pulse until moistened (like wet sand). Set aside a couple tablespoons of this mixture to use as a topping. Press the remaining crust mixture into a 9-inch pie plate. Bake until set, 8 -10 minutes, and then let it cool as you prepare the filling.

For the filling: Melt the butter and chocolate in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until smooth. Take it off of the heat, and stir in the flour and salt until smooth. Stir in the sugar, corn syrup, coffee, and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring until smooth. Pour the filling into your crust and bake until set and cracked on top, around 30 minutes.

Transfer your pie to a rack and let it cool for about 2 hours.

Make the whipped cream: Beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla with a mixer until soft peaks form. Pile the whipped cream on top of your pie and sprinkle with some chopped pecans and the reserved crumb mixture. (I also like to grate a little fresh orange zest over the pie sometimes. So good).


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olive oil braised red onions with bay leaves

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“A crown of bay good fortune brings, to poets, cooks, scholars, kings.” -Carolyn Dille & Susan Belsinger

I’ve never been what you might call, “a camper.” From girl scouts camp to soccer camp to even theater camp, I really gave the whole camp thing a fair shake when I was a kid, but it just never took hold. That whole youth-charged summer loving kumbaya magic that most kids love just never kicked in for me. I’m not completely sure why this was the case, but I’ll wager a guess that it had something to do with a mildly traumatic incident during which I wet my pants in front of an entire room of older campers when I was about six years old. One minute people were belting out camp songs at the tops of their lungs and the next, everyone was staring at me, wide-eyed with shock and awe. The snickering and finger-pointing soon followed. Yes, I think that might have had something to do with it. So, while going was always filled with more dread than delight for me, I did have one experience that will remain forever engrained in my memory as the one time I actually liked camp.

I was about six or seven years old at the time, in the midst of an arts and crafts session at some camp I was attending in Louisville, KY. This was one of those free-for-all things where they let you sort of do what you want with your time for a while, go where the wind will carry you and whatnot. I made my way over to a crafting station and set my sights on creating the most beautiful bird feeder the world has ever known. As I sat at my little table, surrounded by other campers, all of us probably reeking of paste and seed and other sticky substances, a little red-headed boy came up to me with his arms behind his back and his cheeks growing increasingly red.

“Here you go, Lauren (he pronounced it, Law-en). I made this for you.”

In his outstretched hand was the nicest gift a boy had ever given me. It was the only gift a boy had ever given me, come to think of it. I was only seven after all. He had stitched and glued and tacked together a hodge podge of greenery and flowers into a lovely little crown fit for a “forest fairy,” he told me. It was the sweetest thing. I came to find out, after heading to the floral crown making station myself a little later on, that his wreathed creation was actually full of fresh herbs and flowers that some of the older campers had spent the summer learning all about, including bay leaves. This was the first time I had ever heard of them, which is probably why I remember it. They smelled faintly of dirt and flowers, an interesting mix for sure, and one that I never forgot thanks to that freckle-faced red-headed boy.

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Now, fast forward to a dinner I had with a good friend just a couple of months ago. As he was walking around my kitchen, peeking into the various pots and pans that I was using to cook that night’s meal, he asked me about my thoughts on bay leaves, if I thought they were really worth using. I carried that question around for weeks, not sure what my opinion actually was on the matter (and such a serious matter, at that). After chewing on it for a while, I realized that I mostly use bay leaves because that’s just what you do. It’s what my Mom does. It’s what great chefs do. It’s what the ancients did. It’s just THE WAY. Tossing a bay leaf into a pot of simmering something comes about as naturally as adding vanilla to a cake batter. These things just happen; we do them without thinking. At least I used to. Now that I am actually thinking about it, I’m not entirely sure I would miss the bay if I were to leave it out of my recipes. Or would I? Have you ever stopped and thought to yourself, “Man. The bay really makes this dish,” or “This stew just wouldn’t be the same without those bay leaves.” I’m pretty sure I haven’t.

Parsley. Sage. Rosemary. Thyme. All of these herbs, along with plenty of other commonly used varieties, make their presence loudly known in so many dishes that we eat all the time. A parsley garnish clearly brightens up a heavy stew, the sage absolutely makes chicken saltimbocca, rosemary roasted potatoes completely owe their classic status to the pine-scented herb, and the lemony notes of thyme give such a distinctive flavor boost to many a meat rub and seasoning mix. So I found myself wondering what bay leaves bring to the party. They have to bring something right? No one likes a guest who shows up empty handed. It’s just rude.

So I did a little digging and found that the history of bay leaves (laurel) is actually full of lore and mythological intrigue:

“The classical legend of bay’s origin was Daphne’s transformation into the laurel tree during her pursuit by Apollo. Versions vary; one infers that the nymph Daphne was a fiercely independent, rather wild creature and rather than give herself to Apollo, she pleaded with her father, the river god Ladonas, to transform her. Another account indicates that Apollo was wounded by an arrow of Eros (cupid) and fell madly in love with Daphne, who fled from his advances and was changed into the slender bay laurel moments before her capture. All agree that Apollo was so astounded by the tree’s beauty that he claimed the laurel as his own and dedicated it to reward the highest achievements of Greek civilization.” (www.vegetablegardener.com) 

First an herb of poets and then of oracles, warriors, statesmen, and doctors, bay leaves were fashioned into wreaths for famed poets and people in ancient times even used bay leaves to crown their heroes. If bay is good enough for an ancient hero’s crown, and that of a lovely forest fairy for that matter, then it must be good enough to flavor the meals coming out of my modern kitchen. But what is the flavor that it gives, exactly? That’s what I was interested in figuring out, and that is where this braised onions recipe really proved helpful.

This recipe marks the first time that I can actually remember tasting and recognizing bay in a dish. Offering a distinctly sweet, floral, almost perfumed element to these onions, the bay leaves absolutely leave their mark. Upon removing them from the oven, all sizzling and popping in the remnants of the hot braising liquid, I promptly served myself up a wedge and began to smunch. Smunching, for those of you who do not know, is the sound you make when you taste something, your lips and tongue moving up and down to try and generate as much flavor as possible. Okay fine, this is a word that one of my best friends invented with her sisters when they were young. Not knowing a term for that very common practice, they deemed it high time that someone come up with one. Enter “smunching.” I loved it and clearly have incorporated it into my own vernacular.

Smunch. Smunch. Smunch. By jove I think I got it! The flavor of the bay is crystal clear against the sweet and slightly tangy backdrop of these onions. By using few other flavor elements, this dish relies on the distinctive qualities of the bay leaves to elevate it to something more interesting than simply, cooked onions. The combination of the vinegar, wine, olive oil, and bay makes for a fantastic and delicate way to season the already sweet onions. The bay is subtle though. It’s not going to wallop you in the face and scream, “Look at me! Look at me! I’m here!” like say, basil would in a Caprese salad. It’s there though, and it’s wonderful, and you must try this. Served up alongside something savory like a roasted pork loin, this is one recipe that will place those bay leaves you’re always using right smack dab in the spotlight.

RECIPE

adapted from http://www.finecooking.com

 

1-1/2 lb. red onions (about 3 medium onions), trimmed, halved vertically, and cut into 2/3-inch wedges

4 dried bay leaves, each torn into a few pieces

3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

1-1/2 Tbs. white wine vinegar

1 Tbs. Marsala wine (or a white wine)

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat it to 375°F.

Arrange the onion wedges in an overlapping single layer in a shallow 10×15-inch baking dish. Nestle the bay leaves among the onions. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, vinegar, white wine, and 1-1/2 …Tbs. water and drizzle over the onions. Sprinkle evenly with 1 …tsp. salt. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil.

Braise the onions until they’re completely tender when pierced, about 35 – 45 …minutes. Uncover the dish and continue to braise until all of the liquid has evaporated and the onions are darkly roasted, about 20… minutes more. Remove the bay leaves and serve the onions warm or at room temperature.

 

 

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