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Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Secret Garden

How I loved reading Frances Hodgson Burnett's book The Secret Garden when I was growing up. I couldn't help but be reminded of it over the past weekend. Baby and I went to my hometown in NH to celebrate the wedding of my childhood friend. At the after-after-after party the next morning, we were invited for Bloody Mary's where we beheld a breathless, wondrous garden that was exuberantly, extraordinarily tended by our friends' neighbor next door. Once invited over, Baby and I went hog wild, plundering the wealth of vegetables and set to thinking immediately just what we would do with all of our shameless bounty! We knew we had to work quickly while everything was achingly fragrant and fresh. Relying mostly on our imagination, this is what we chopped, grilled, juiced and pureed.

Rosie Daley's Grilled Vegetables
This recipe was a perfect foil as it utilized so much of our finds, including sliced yellow squash, eggplant, red onions, and a chiffonade of basil.

Zucchini Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce
I love this zucchini bread recipe but I didn't use enough butter or flour or both in the pan and some of it stuck, so to make up for the mess I cut the bread up into cubes and covered it with the whiskey sauce so it would appear it was all quite deliberate and intentional. The friends and co-workers that we shared it with were none the wiser. I didn't have any walnuts as the recipe suggests, so I added some chocolate morsels to give it some body--it turned out to be a little sweet, so I appropriated Jamie Shannon's (Commander's Kitchen in New Orleans) whiskey sauce recipe on for balance. He uses 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons cold water with 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup bourbon. As he writes, "bring the cream to a boil, combine the cornstarch and water, and add the mixture to the boiling cream, stirring constantly. Return to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn the mixture. Add the sugar and bourbon, and stir. Let cool to room temperature." Then pour it over your pudding!

Cucumber Cocktail
We juiced a bunch of cucumbers for improvised soda which is perfect to serve with Hendrick's gin on the rocks. Boil a 2:1 ratio of water and sugar until combined. While this is happening, juice 4 or 5 kirby cukes or 2 medium sized cucumbers to yield about 3 cups of juice to make several cocktails. Each cocktail should have a decent amount of gin suited to your liking, with a TB of the simple syrup, 2 or 3 TBS of cucumber juice, a brisk spray of lemon or lime and a liberal splash of soda water. The simpler version is to just order a case of Mr. Q. Cumber's cucumber soda from and mix one 7 oz. bottle with a scant cup of Hendrick's gin; either way, the drink should be stirred with fervor and served on the rocks and or gently shaken and served straight up to slake the summer thirsts of two people.

Marinara Sauce
For our Eggplant Pizzas courtesy of the brand new iPhone app! While we sauteed a chopped onion, 2 crushed garlic cloves and a small green pepper in a little olive oil, we pureed ten cherry tomatoes, two beefsteaks, and a single yellow gem that were all bursting at the seams for sauce with a slice of a small hot red pepper for some heat. The yield was about 6 cups and we cooked down to 3 cups in a reduction pan and added a thread of chopped basil upon finishing before composing the eggplant dish with our sauce that tasted ripe off the vine. And did I mention we fried slices of a rotund green tomato (with outrageous orangey yellow innards) and poured the sauce over the beauty as well for good measure?

Purple Cabbage Salad
To pair with a Puerto Rican roasted pork (Pernil al Horno) that we were planning, we thinly sliced a beautiful head of cabbage, and tossed it with a simple dressing based on a Michael Lomonaco recipe: 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 TB Dijon mustard, 1 TB sugar, several chopped shallots, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/4 cup each (or so!) of blood orange olive oil and chipotle olive oil. Process all of the ingredients except for the oils, which are to be slowly drizzled in at the end until combined and silken. The dressing yields 1 cup.

Who says it ain't easy being green?

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