Category Archives: Food

Ah, the Produce is In

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown

For not getting most our garden in till late June, we are having some luck. I’ve frozen some tomato sauce, and we’ve been keeping up with the zucchini by that old late summer standby, giving some away to our neighbors. I found a chilled cucumber smoothie recipe that has helped use up LOTS of those big honkin’ cukes, and which was delightful on some of those hot days.

But I’m feeling a little overwhelmed this week, as there are cukes AND tomatoes AND zucchini to process in some way. Also some windfall pears we found on a corner a couple of blocks from here, and our friend Walken’s kohlrabi… Knowing how Babooners mostly know these things, I thought I’d ask here for recipes.

Specifically, does anyone have an outstanding Zucchini Bread recipe? (The one I remember is nowhere to be found.)

Anyone have a good recipe for an offbeat tomato-based Salsa?

And how about a cucumber raita, or some other cooling cucumber salad recipe?

Oh, I know I can find these things online if I look, but it seems friendlier to get them from baboons – they taste better somehow – and we haven’t had a recipe day for a while.

What’s your favorite Harvest Recipe, whether you’ve actually made it or not?

The First Tomato

Today’s post comes from Verily Sherrilee

My first tomato of the season! It’s small – a variety of grape tomato known as the Santa.  I noticed it starting to turn a couple of days ago and was hoping some critter didn’t get to it before it was perfectly red and ready.  There it was last night when I got home; it didn’t even make it into the house before I had popped it in my mouth. I try not to say “OMG” too much but OMG!

I’ve always loved tomatoes. I love big fat tomato slices on open-faced cheese sandwiches. I love little tiny tomatoes in pasta salad.  Chunks of tomato with orzo and basil.  Salsa with tomatillos.  Spaghetti w/ tomatoes, olive oil and spinach. Bruschetta with diced tomatoes and garlic.  Hardly a way you can make something with tomatoes that I don’t like.


For many years I tried, unsuccessfully, to grow my own. The garden plot was decimated by dogs; the “hanging” contraption was too heavy and kept falling over.  Plants just never grew in big pots.  It was so demoralizing that for many years, I didn’t even try.  Then, thanks to someone mentioning it on the Trail, I read Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook, an exposé on the tomato industry.  It was horrifying and I came away from the book with a new determination to grow my own tomatoes.  It was this determination that led me to straw bale gardening – finally a way to have my own home-grown tomatoes.

I know I’m probably not saving any money by growing my own (cost of bales, cost of water, cost of seedlings, etc.) but I do love picking a tomato, taking in the house and eating it for dinner. There is nothing like it in my book!

What summer produce can you hardly wait for?

Taco Confundo

Today’s post comes from Ben Hain.

I don’t understand the popularity of late night Taco Bell. I mean I’m right there in line too, Just why is everybody else here??
What is the appeal of Taco Bell late at night??

It can’t be just the food is it?

Dairy Queen is open right next door and I should’ve gone there! But I thought I needed something a little more nutritious than ice cream. So it’s 10 o’clock on a Thursday night and I am the ninth car in line. We’ve been here at 11:30 at night and been the 12th car in line. And the parking lot is full of cars too. I don’t understand –what is the appeal?

And why hasn’t the local franchise owner opened another one of these restaurants?

Rochester, a town of 100,000 people, has two Taco Bell’s; One out north and one downtown. One night Kelly got so fed up with the line at this one she went to the north one.

And there was a line there too!

I drove by Snappy Stop, but as I’ve had that a few times lately, well, I guess I was in the mood for Taco Bell. But there wasn’t a line at Snappy Stop. (Anybody know what Snappy Stop is? It’s just a drive-through burger place in a little building about 10’ x 20’. Hamburgers and hot dogs is all they do. Oh, and ice cream sandwiches. And their hamburgers are really good. Like Five Guys good.)

I dictated this while waiting in line. I’m still the seventh car in line at Taco Bell… Shoulda gone to Snappy Stop. Or Dairy Queen.

Seventeen minutes later I have my food. I could have gone home. But this chicken quesarito was really good.

I don’t understand.

What don’t you understand?

The Last Meal

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

Uh oh! The warden has just informed you that your last appeal was rejected.

You might have won a stay (or even a pardon) if Hillary had won. But President Ted Cruz filled Scalia’s open chair with Dick Cheney, and there went your chance for any mercy. Pizzle rot! You should have voted Democratic.

But there is an upside to this. You do get to choose your last meal. That’s something to look forward to, right?

What will this meal be? Some options are not open. You don’t get to pick that famous Chinese dish, 100 year old egg, starting with an egg laid this week. You’ve gotta choose something that will take a reasonable time to prepare. But it is nice that the warden doesn’t insist you pick a fast food dish. Whew!

My first choice for a last meal is something our family absolutely adored. Sad to say, it is no longer available. Our favorite meal for years was takeout from Caravan Serai, the first Afghani restaurant in the United States. Nancy Kayhoum was the owner and main cook in the 1980s and 1990s. About once a week we ordered her incredible combination appetizer (the Marco Polo) and then each family member had a favorite standard dish. Chicken kabobs for the grownups, gyros for the kid. It was heaven. When we opened the takeout bags, our home reeked of delicious herbs and spices for hours. But Nancy closed her restaurant decades ago, so that’s that.

It surprises (and mildly embarrasses) me that my next choice of last meal is something quite common. It was a meal I cooked myself, and once again it was something we had regularly. But it was so satisfying that it would be better than any other last meal I can think of. When my erstwife left the US to live in Europe, she would occasionally make business visits back home. This was the meal she asked me to serve her each time she was a house guest. It impressed me that a woman accustomed to eating in famous four-star restaurants all over Europe dreamed of enjoying again something we could cook at home.

What was that meal? It featured grilled round steak from Lunds, steamed broccoli drenched in a homemade Hollandaise sauce and oven-baked Tater Tots. The steak was Lunds’ dry-aged round steak, but for my last meal I would upgrade to filet mignon. And we should not forget one or two of those French baguettes from the Lunds bakery. Since we are not cutting corners here, we can add butter from the Hope Creamery. And to wash it down, let’s have pinot noir from Oregon.

It isn’t the meal my cardiologist would endorse. We have been told we shouldn’t eat too
much meat, and I don’t think Tater Tots make anybody’s list of health food. But hey, that’s what is so good about a last meal. You can chow down like there is no tomorrow!

We didn’t use to have desert with that meal, but this is a special occasion, so we’ll make an exception. While I remember some incredible deserts we ate while traveling (crème brulee in a London restaurant comes to mind) my choice for a last meal would again be prosaic. Give me a slice of pecan pie, with a generous scoop cinnamon ice cream on the side.

Oh, my, that was good. Hey warden, could I have seconds?

What would you choose for your very last meal?

First Time Foods

Today’s post comes from Cynthia in Mahtowa

Going through some old letters I had sent to my mother from my first teaching job in Port Angeles, Washington in 1964, I found a paragraph describing all the “new” foods I was eating. Foods I had never heard of in my small northeastern Minnesota hometown such as artichokes, zucchini, Swiss chard, eggplant, turnips, parsnips. (I led a very sheltered food life.)

I remember that first taste of an artichoke – a more worldly friend teaching me how to tear off a leaf, dip it in butter and scrape off the soft inner part with my lower teeth. How exotic. Later that friend’s aunt taught me to use mayonnaise with dry vermouth and garlic for dipping — still my preference.

Washington state firsts: Dungeness crab. Fresh salmon. Fresh apricots. Carrot cake.

So this got me to thinking of all the “exotic” foods that I was introduced to since then.   Five months in Switzerland, four of them living above and eating in a bakery/tea room — cheese fondue with bread dipped in kirsch (cherry brandy), lamb curry, gibfeli (croissants), café au lait, escargot, tripe soup. I have fond memories of all but the tripe soup.

On the small Italian ship I took to Europe in 1965 I had tongue and my first cappuccino. When we landed In England I had coffee with Demerara (brown) sugar. Did I try steak and kidney pie? I might have. But that really hot Indian curry in a English restaurant made me feel guilty for not eating it all because of the hungry children of India.

In Greece I watched a man slam an octopus repeatedly on the rocks. Was he trying to kill it or tenderize it? But I did not eat octopus until many years later and then in a sushi restaurant. (A friend traveling in the Orient had octopus so fresh the sucker stuck to the top of his mouth. But that may have been the least exotic thing he ate on that trip…was it duck bills or duck feet?) Squid entered my eating repertoire much later, though the first time I had it I was unnerved by the little tentacles.

When I was a child my father paid me to eat asparagus – or, tried to. He had tricked me into eating horseradish when I was five. How could I trust him to steer me right? Asparagus cooked to a gray mush? Then in 1972 I paid $2.50 for three spears of properly cooked white asparagus in a San Francisco restaurant. There I also had a “bird with a long beak” for an entrée. It had four legs and no wings…a rabbit, perhaps? Did the waiter mistranslate or was he leading me astray and making fun because I didn’t know French?

Asparagus was the first thing I planted when I moved to this farm. It still comes back every spring. I eat it sautéed it to a bright and crispy green.


First time food that has not been repeated: Rocky Mountain “oysters” (our kid goats’ testicles). Foods have become favorites: really, really hot Mexican food, goat meat, spanakopita, lobster, clams, mussels, lamb. Swedish Princess cake made with marzipan, whipped cream, raspberries and custard. Every cake I ate in Norway. Scandinavian open face sandwiches (smørsbrød). French goat cheeses and Norwegian brown cheese. I could go on…but won’t.

What “exotic” foods have you tried and fallen in love with….or not?



Come Along, Don’t Go Along

Today’s post comes from Jim Tjepkma

I had the very good fortune to spend five years working closely with Dick and Sharon Thompson in my job as the coordinator of the Rodale Institute’s Midwest On-Farm Education and Research Network.  The Thompsons were among the nation’s foremost leaders in the development and promotion of sustainable farming.   I meet them soon after Rodale hired me early in 1989.   I was the second coordinator for the Rodale network that had been setup several years earlier.   The network was based on Dick and Sharon’s approach to advancing sustainable farming, which was centered around farmer participation in education and research programs for the development of alternatives to conventional farming methods.

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Dick said that he had received a message telling him that his approach to farming should be one of coming along and not going along.   For him this meant that he should question the current farming methods that were very widely used and look for better ways to farm.   He started by trying out some unconventional farming practices he learned about from other farmers who were also questioning the increasingly industrialized approach to farming that most farmers had adopted including heavy use of pesticides and the use of very large machinery.

Under Dick’s “come along, don’t go along” approach, he put together some of the best of the alternative ideas he could find into a system that worked well for him.  Dick had a lot of skill at finding and adopting better farming methods and came up with practices that worked well which were not in line with many of the practices recommended by universities.

He decided that he needed to demonstrate that his methods were as good or better than the ones the universities promoted by setting up scientifically designed research plots comparing his practices to theirs.  His research plots became a central part of large field days that he and Sharon hosted and he also taught other famers, included those in the Rodale network, how to do their own research.

Dick was a featured speaker at many farm meetings and usually participated in these meeting with Sharon at his side to let everyone know that she was an important part the work he did.   He also encouraged other farmers to come forward as speakers and as educators as well as encouraging them to engage in research.

I think Dick and Sharon’s approach of “coming along not going along” sets a good example for all of us.  In fact I think his approach is basically what a good citizenship should do.  We should not automatically accept what we are told by authorities and we should be actively engaged in creating a better world.

Who do you know who has influenced you by setting a good example?

Fun in the Kitchen

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale

The next couple of days will be very busy for people who like to cook, and who like to appreciate – by eating what’s cooked. If you’re not hosting the feast on Turkey Day, you may be contributing to the meal. In our case, we will be cooking on Wednesday, then transporting to Winona our favorite side dishes and a dessert, for a mid-afternoon meal with Friends on Thanksgiving.

For my part, I will refer to my two favorite cookbook authors, Laurie Colwin and Alice May Brock (of Alice’s Restaurant fame – the real Alice). My favorite things from Alice’s Restaurant Cookbook are the Stuffed Mushrooms on p. 104, and her irreverent attitude, which is (paraphrasing here): don’t get hung up on the details – improvise, don’t take it all too seriously. And I quote: “Wine and liquor are great for cooking, and also for the cook… in fact, more important for the cook…”

Laurie Colwin, a delightful writer who left us too soon, has just two cookbooks Home Cooking: a Writer in the Kitchen and More Home Cooking… (in addition to several works of fiction). Not sure what I like better, the stories about how she taught herself to cook, or the casual, irreverent approach to cooking. With chapters like “How to Disguise Vegetables” and “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant”, she had me at the Table of Contents. What to do when you have too many red bell peppers? (“A large number of red peppers is a beautiful sight.”) Simmer in plenty of olive oil, etc., till you have what “some people might call… Red Pepper Conserve, but it will always be red pepper sludge to me.”

So I’ll bring my red pepper sludge, stuff some mushrooms, do something fun with sweet potatoes, and bring a pumpkin dessert. But I won’t get too serious about it.

Will you be cooking or appreciating this Thanksgiving, and what’s your favorite food to cook or appreciate?