butter

Where Garden Meets Kitchen

Summer gardening is a challenge in Florida.  Okay, who am I kidding?  Between scorching drought and rising floods, a sprinkler system run amuck and intermittent vacations, I’m not gardening a whole heck of a lot this summer (though I am solarizing a host of underground beasts hiding out in my beds).  Instead, I’m creating delicacies in the kitchen with my spring produce.  Yes!  Doesn’t that sound marvelous?

Now that the sun is shining and my spirits have recovered from a rainy beach vacation, I’m turning my attention to crafty ways to use my herbs–those that survived the downpour post-drought, that is.  Yep.  You guessed it.  We’re talking rosemary, the feisty old gal.  Hard to kill this beauty (another point in the “I love you” column!) which is why I have two of these babes.  They grow like weeds with or without my help, so this week when the kids and I cut them back, we decided to pack them with butter and lemon juice.

I saw this in a magazine once, where they mixed fresh herbs and froze them–or did they refrigerate them?  I don’t recall exactly, but what I do remember is how simple a process it seemed and how handy to have these cubes on hand when I need to whip up a fancy dinner for hubby and the kids.  Fresh fish with herb butter anyone?  How about a little rosemary lemon drizzle on that pasta?  Mix it up with olive oil and we’re talking salad dressing galore.

And pre-prepared–the key behind the project.  Because I assure you, if I had to collect fresh herbs, chop them finely and mix with lemon juice and olive oil just to eat a salad?  It wouldn’t happen.  Nope.  Nada.  Never.  I simply don’t have that kind of time OR forethought.  *sigh*  It’s a curse.

Any-hoo, let’s not bother with all that–let’s make it a craft for the kids!  C’mon guys, think of it:  you can pop a rosemary lemon ice-cube into your lemonade any time you want for instant rosemary lemonade!  Yay!  Simply steep your rosemary according to my recipe, grab an ice tray, mix the herb liquid with lemon juice (we used concentrate) and fill your tray.  Freeze them for individual ice cubes that you can pop into a beverage, at your leisure.  Psst…they go great with vodka, too.  Five o’clock, summer style. 🙂

While you have the rosemary out, chop it very fine, mix with softened butter and do the same in a separate ice-cube tray.  Or heck, mix and match in the same tray.  That’s what we did.   I do love a multi-tasker!  No rosemary?  Try basil with butter, chives, even parsley.  Maybe a combination of your favorites?

And while you have your thinking cap on, try freezing a little cilantro and lime juice for an easy addition to homemade salsa, or mango smoothies.  My kids are big on smoothies.  Seems to be the most appealing way for them to eat their fruit.  Me?  I say, whatever works.  Then it hits me.  Why stop there? 

Hey kids, how about making mom a little mango sorbet with your ice cream maker, and throw in a cilantro/lime cube while you’re at it?  Fresh mint and vanilla ice cream?  Mmmm….  Don’t forget the chocolate chips!

The possibilities are endless.  Just be sure to cover your trays with plastic wrap so they don’t absorb any undelightful odors from your freezer.  If you’re only working with butter, the refrigerator will work.  Also, when the butter hardens, individually wrap your squares for easy use. 

Easy-peasy-lemony-squeezy!  Told you I was all sunshine and spirit today…  So rather than cry over the heat and humidity, use what herbs you have now and save some for later.

Cooking Up Some Comfort Food

Not that we need comfort food in Florida this time of year, but it is practically St. Patrick’s Day and with that comes corn beef and cabbage.  Corn beef and cabbage?  Yum.  Count me in!

In my opinion, the best part about this dish happens to be the cabbage.  Not only does it come from garden this time of year–always and added plus–it takes on a whole new personality when sautéed with sweet onions.  Granted my sweet onions aren’t ready yet (still “bartering” with gardeners from other parts of the world at the moment for my onion supply), but thank goodness for the grocery store, right?  I mean, I don’t raise beef, either but it doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the taste every now and again.

Back to my cabbage.  This is one of my husband’s favorites.  Born and raised in Ohio, his family has been making this comfort food for years.  But being from Miami, I never heard of it until I met him.  We ate mangos and plantains, fried chicken and grits.  (That’s what happens when you transplant a Georgia family to South Florida–cra-zy!)  All good food and comforting to a degree, but this dish has fast become a favorite of mine, too.   How can you not like a dish with three simple ingredients?

It’s perfect.  The only challenge comes in the fact that you have to “work” this dish and by that I mean actually stand stove-side and stir, flip, rotate–you know, cook!  That’s where I tend to have issue.  What requires a golden butter brown saute ends up caramelized quickly in my kitchen.  I could blame it on the high heat of my electric stove (real cooks use gas) or the fact that I multi-task while cooking.  Who can ignore the buzzer on a dryer full of warm wrinkle-free clothes?  Not me!

But truly it’s all good.  My cabbage dish turns out sweet and delightful and more importantly–edible.  Never good to mess up hubby’s favorite dish (if you know what I mean) so I do try to pay attention and caramelizing is a good thing.  If it works for French onion soup, it can work for cabbage and onions.  And just look at these results.

Are you salivating, yet?  Thought you would be!  Now head on over to my recipe section for complete details on how to conjure up this gourmet delight in your kitchen tonight!

Florida’s Sea Garden

The family and I went scalloping this last week and reaped quite the bounty–and not only scallops, but starfish, blue crabs, fish–the works!  Easy, fun, this was a great trip.  For full details on our adventure, check out my blog here.

While out on the boat scavenging for scallops, we ate well.  No, not fresh veggies (though we did have fruit).  Boiled peanuts are the preferred diet for scallop hunting and while I’d like to lay claim to them as my own, I cannot.  Mine are slated as “football peanuts” and won’t be ready until August/September.  These gems came from one of our farm-friendly families and were boiled on site to perfection in their handy-dandy boiler.  Have large pot, will travel!

And let me tell you, they were good.  If you’ve never enjoyed boiled peanuts, you’re in for a treat.  Easy to make, you simply soak your green peanuts in salted water and cook like you would a roast in a crock pot.  Monitor as they simmer and add water as needed, since the peanuts will soak up the water in your pot. Usually takes a few hours before they’re ready, but when soft–serve warm! 

Another treat for your large pot is crabs.  The kids had a ball catching these little guys and of course they wanted to eat them so Mom tossed them into a pot of boiling water and ta-da!  Crabs for dinner.

Which go very well with scallops.  These were soaked in butter, wine and garlic and served over pasta.  Makes for a nice vacation dinner, don’t you think?

And we do like to eat on vacation!