As a kid, okra fresh from my grandparents’ garden heralded the end of summer. Shopping for school clothes, first days of school, and a nip in the rapidly cooling autumn air.
That is soooo not the case in North Carolina.
Okra is everywhere here at the peak heat of southern summer. Every season, I look forward to these weird little pods more than almost any other produce, and baskets of them have been overflowing at the market since the middle of June.
And since I’m a grown up (ha) and can buy whatever food I want thank you very much, I eat okra at least a couple of times a week.
Remember the giant whole pickles? I used to buy them in elementary school in the snack line at recess, plucked straight from a vat of brine by the school cook and deftly wrapped in a flimsy paper napkin. Only fifty cents! Add to that a Sunny D or a zebra cake. Then to the tire swings!!
Those were the days. Minus kids making fun of my glasses and my last name.
I’ve always known that pickles are a relatively easy canning project, but I had never actually made them until last weekend. This particular method is easier than I could have possibly imagined.
At all of the various jobs I have held in the last several years, I’ve packed my lunch almost every day.
Sometimes I take leftovers, sometimes a sandwich, sometimes a bizarre assortment of whatever I can grab from the fridge or pantry in the morning as I’m rushing to leave my apartment and make it to work on time.
Bierocks, however, make fairly regular appearances on my lunch menu, and they also tend to illicit the most curiosity from my colleagues.
You’re probably asking yourself the same question my colleagues did: what the heck is a bierock? As a kid, I interpreted them as German egg rolls. That was… incorrect. So I did a little research: pretty much everyone seems to agree that they are “meat turnovers” originally from Eastern Europe, most likely Germany or Russia. The recipe I modified is titled “German-Austrian Bierocks”, so who knows. They are definitely NOT fancy; in fact, they’re about as close to peasant food as you can get. I mean, they are basically little pouches of simple bread dough filled with cabbage, onion, and ground beef.
But each little wonder is warm, savory, and filling: right in line with what I usually crave for lunch. Better still, bierocks freeze amazingly well, and since each batch makes almost four dozen of them, they are perfect for days when I need to pack lunch quickly but don’t have anything else prepared. Homemade frozen meals without all the packaging and bizarre preservatives. Brilliant!
I think you should make some. They’re tasty! But, they are a bit of a process, so think of this more as a food preservation project than making an evening meal. I rarely actually eat a single one of these the same day I make them.
Those weeks where you have approximately enough energy to get to work, get home, and go to bed. Those weeks when you develop a vicious summer cold and have five (five!) high school graduations to house manage.
Those weeks where the most exciting thing you cook is a pot of spaghetti, which is then scooped hastily into a lidded dish to give the illusion of a balanced lunch.
Do you have those weeks?
Fortunately, this lack of energy didn’t fully hit until after my parents headed home from their visit to North Carolina. And you know what having company means? Breakfast! And not just my normal dish of yogurt. We’re talkin’ hot, homecooked, fills-you-up-until-dinner breakfast.
Baking potatoes are fine and dandy, but the first new potatoes to find themselves suddenly exposed to the sunlight in a shovelful of soil are some of the most fleeting treasures of a summer harvest. Tender, moist, and thin-skinned, new potatoes coupled with a maturing spring onion make for one awesome breakfast.
I’m not exactly sure when I made the transition from thinking I hated carrot cake to eyeballing it with lust at bakeries. It seems to be one of those desserts with distinct factions: the lovers, the haters, and the folks who are mostly there for the cream cheese icing. I was somewhere in between those last two.
But whatever triggered this change in taste has permanently embedded carrot cake on my list of desserts to make whenever carrots find their way into my fridge.
For some reason I’ve always strongly associated carrots with fall harvests, not spring ones. Perhaps it’s because they are orange and fit oh so nicely into the autumn palette. I’ll be honest, there are lots of “when food grows” ideas that I’ve had to re-address after moving here. We arrived last August, and I kept waiting… and waiting… and waiting for carrots, storage onions, and potatoes to appear. A couple of vendors had carrots for about two weeks in early November, but that was it.
Recently, however, tables at the market have buckled under the weight of carrots so fresh the dirt still clings to them.
There are SO many recipes for carrot cake out there. Some with pineapple, some have apple sauce, some with a wide range of semi-exotic spices. I decided to try a family favorite from one of my dad’s cousins. It’s simple, but according to my mom it’s “soooooooo good!” Direct quote.
So, I actually feel a little silly about the recipe I’m about to give, mostly because I rarely measure ANY of the ingredients when I make it myself. I also change the ingredients based on what’s in season and what I have. A lot.
But I’m sharing anyway because, quite simply, I love stir fry. I make it all the time. I mean, what an awesome go-to meal! It’s warm. It’s savory. It’s quick. It makes great leftovers. And it’s chock full of whatever vegetables are in season.
This is my first spring living in North Carolina, and I must say, I am impressed by the bounty of produce that is already available at the farmers market. Maybe this is all old hat for life-long North Carolinians, but to see this many vegetables fresh from the fields in early May is astonishing to me.
Now, I definitely could have gone with just these and had almost completely local stir fry. But I must confess, a few of my favorite stir fry add-ins are definitely not from around here. These three in particular lend a crunchiness that I find delectable against softened vegetables and chewy rice.
You should use whatever vegetables you want. My dream stir fry is probably not the same as your dream stir fry, and in fact, you may think I’m a bit odd for having a “dream stir fry” at all. Really, who says that?
I find the phrase “holy guacamole” somewhat misleading. Holy things are revered. They are viewed from afar. They are stored in stone cathedrals and world museums.
They are never scooped onto chips, dolloped onto quesadillas, or spooned directly out of the bowl.
By these guidelines, this is decidedly unholy guacamole.
Cinco de Mayo was as good of an excuse as any to buy avocados and make my favorite electric-green dip. I generally try to limit my produce purchases to those grown locally, but the convergence of both a holiday AND a dinner invitation were enough to merit an exception.
The cilantro on the porch, however, was ready to harvest! After researching HOW to harvest cilantro without killing the plant and preventing future growth, I went to the balcony armed with scissors and a bowl and voila! Really fresh cilantro!
Guacamole is one of those things that can be prepared “perfectly” in a million different ways. Some guacs are smooth and creamy, some are chunky and spicy, some have tomatoes, some don’t. Personally, I’m in the no tomato camp. If I want tomatoes, I’ll eat salsa from the other dip bowl, thank you very much.
Okay, before I dive into this one, I need a favor. I have a bit of bloggie housekeeping to take care of, and it’s a bit embarrassing. Long story short, I recently installed a plug-in affecting the feed that I didn’t realize I needed when I initially launched the site. Sooooo if you have subscribed to the RSS feed, I would very much appreciate it if you would unsubscribe… and then resubscribe again and refresh the reader. Live and learn, I suppose. I appreciate your help!
Now to the tasty business.
This may be a staple comfort food for some of you, but I don’t think I ever had chicken pot pie until Brad insisted I try some of the Marie Callender one he had one night in college. I was… not particularly wowed.
This recipe changed all that. I my original intent in seeking out this recipe was as a surprise look-I-made-you-one-of-your-favorite-meals-ever dinner after Brad’s first round of law school exams. The look on his face when I finally let him out of the study (wouldn’t be a very good surprise if he could see what I was making, would it?) was like a six-year old’s at Christmas.
The original recipe I found for this claimed to make one 9-inch pie. With the adjustments I made, I have ended up with TWO 9-inch pies both times I’ve made it, which yields delicious homemade lunch for the next few days. Tasty lunch, too. Also, it’s very flexible to veggie preference. Prefer potato over corn? Broccoli over peas? Both or either would probably be delicious. I like the crunch offered by the celery and the carrots, so I definitely recommend leaving them in if you’re gonna play mix-and-match, but it’s your pie, do what you like. Within reason…
Mmmmm spring. The time when my cravings for cool, green salads kicks into full gear. Lucky for me, the tables at the farmer’s market are bowing under the weight of every kind of lettuce, cabbage, chard, and shoot I could possibly want. In fact, here, we are lucky to have two major growing seasons for leafy greens, as well as a fair amount all winter. It’s fabulous.
Bok choy is actually a pretty new leafy green for me, introduced to me in this recipe from Brad’s mother on their visit last fall. For some reason, I’ve made it with lasagne both times we’ve had it. It makes a great side for pasta.
Sidebar: if you don’t already know who Brad is, I should probably bring you in the loop since he’ll probably be mentioned a lot here. I really hate the word “boyfriend” (for some reason I always think of giggling tweens when I say it) but it’s a challenge to find an accurate word for what he is to me. Domestic partner? Significant other? Un-wed spouse? Romantic roommate? Best best friend? Anyway, you get the point.