One of the things we love most about participating in a CSA is being exposed to new a different things. Granted, after a few years of belonging to one we’re now familiar with that which was once new, but this year we were in for a treat.
Sweet potato greens.
Have you ever cooked with or eaten them before?
Apparently they are extremely healthy, but have a milder flavor than many leafy greens. Something along the lines of spinach or swiss chard. That and when cooked properly they are tender and buttery and practically melt in your mouth.
How often can that be said about a leafy green?
We’ve been talking about adding a recurring feature here on Love & Olive Oil for some time now, called “New to Us” or something along those lines, featuring new and unusual ingredients that we have never cooked with before. Consider this the very first installment, and a double one at that. What else is new to us? Fresh turmeric. We found some at Whole Foods alongside the ginger, and knowing we were making this recipe, couldn’t resist trying it out. Fresh turmeric basically looks like little orange ginger roots. Or, you know, mummified baby carrots. You peel and grate it (wear gloves if you don’t want your fingers to turn yellow), and add it to your dish. It’s got a fantastic color and flavor more subtle and refined than the dried stuff (but that’ll work too, in a pinch).
The turmeric, combined with lemongrass, shallot, ginger, and chili in a rich bath of coconut milk becomes something akin to a mild curry. It’s not overly spiced or overly spicy, but rather smooth and luxurious – a perfect compliment to these unique greens.
The bummer about this recipe is sweet potato greens aren’t exactly something you can go to the grocery store and buy. But maybe you have a garden, or a friend with a garden, or know of a local farm that grows sweet potatoes and can bum some tips off of them. I think the closest substitute here would be fresh spinach, perhaps swiss chard although it has a bit more bite to it and may need to be cooked slightly longer.
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There’s a lot to love about Tennessee: the people, the southern hospitality, the food, and of course… the whiskey. Nashville is home to several small craft distilleries and last week a group of bloggers were treated to a tour of Collier and McKeel, a new local distillery producing traditional Tennessee Whiskey, one small batch at a time.
The proprietor, Mike Williams, along with his right hand men, Ryan and Justin, are very passionate about what they do. And it shows. They gave us a thorough explanation of the distillation process, which is actually quite interesting even for those who don’t normally drink whiskey (like my wife, who only seems to want to bake with it). Rather than simply buying whiskey from a larger producer, putting a label on it and creating a brand, Collier and McKeel makes their product from scratch using a blend of corn, rye, and malted barley. They grind, mash, and distill the spirits in-house, finally filtering it through a thick layer of sugar maple charcoal (the part in the process that differentiates a Tennessee whiskey from other whiskeys).
During the tour we sampled whiskey from several different barrels that were in the middle of the aging process. We compared the difference in flavor between whiskey aged in small barrels and whiskey aged in larger traditional barrels. Because the ratio of wood to liquid is higher in small barrels, they tend to impart the flavor from the barrel quicker than larger barrels do.
Regardless of the size of the barrel, what ultimately matters most is the flavor. Collier and McKeel’s whiskey has all of the caramel, vanilla, and desirable woody characteristics that you would expect from a quality Tennessee Whiskey.
It is refreshing to see a small operation run by people who really care about what they are doing. Mike literally has his hands on every step of the process. Every bottle that goes out the door gets his thumbprint on the back to show his commitment to quality and attention to detail.
I’m all for supporting local businesses. Especially the boozy ones.
End of season tomatoes seem to get smaller and smaller. The big, juicy pineapples and Cherokee purples from June and July have disappeared, making way for dozens of petite salad tomatoes. These tomatoes, also known as Romas, are fleshier than beefsteak tomatoes which makes them ideal for homemade tomato sauce (more flesh and less juice make for higher yields and thicker sauce). But that takes time. And when you’ve got an overflowing bowl of over-ripe tomatoes sitting on the hutch and three hungry cats yelling at you and a pile of laundry and a full email box and final edits due on your book the next day and a mess of a living room and dust and cat hair covering every surface, time is the only thing you don’t have. Surely not enough time to make a big batch of homemade tomato sauce.
Time for plan B.
Roasting brings out the best in these little gems. They shrivel and bubble and sizzle and shrink, the heat only intensifying the flavors. I threw in some sprigs of fresh thyme, but any herb would do; you could also roast them with whole cloves of garlic or slices of onion or shallot too. Put them on top of some pasta and you have yourself a dinner in no time.
Because, really, who needs tomato sauce anyway?
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Taylor and I are joyously reveling in other people’s recipes right now. Food magazines! Brilliant blogs! Cookbooks! It’s fantastic. After months of pressure knowing that dinner was always on us, it’s nice to let someone else do the work for a change. Well, we still have to cook it, but we don’t have to think quite as much while doing it.
I started calling this salad kale chip salad, as we used the same method of preparation for the kale as we do when we make kale chips. The grill-less among us will sympathize. I’m sure grilled kale is fantastic, but we have no choice but to improvise.
Luckily, the kale comes out of the oven crisp and delicious. I’m surprised no one has ever thought to put it in a salad before, because it’s kind of awesome. Having spent so much time developing recipes in the past year I can heartily appreciate a brilliant recipe when I see one.
Our home is in a state of disarray at the moment, a result of long-put-off projects that we’re finally getting around to completing. I’ll just say that such projects would not be necessary if I didn’t have an overabundance of spoons and ice cream bowls. My bad.
Since our dining room table is, um, unavailable at the moment (meaning there’s not a free inch on which to set a plate), we’ve been forced outside. Luckily the gorgeous fall-like weather has so kindly permitted us to eat outside on our (thoroughly underutilized) balcony. So for the past few days we’ve dined alfresco, breathing in the crisp quasi-fall air, surrounded by freaky spiders and dead tomatoes. How romantic.
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