Thunderstorms, flourishing gardens, long sunny days and warm humid evenings. There’s no doubt that summer is in full swing, and honestly folks, this is the first summer I’ve ever had a garden. I grew up outside the city, I shopped for my veggies in grocery stores. To walk into the garden and pick something fresh to eat that night… Well, there’s nothing like it. With fresh veggies coming in, all I can think about is cooking. And when I think about cooking, I inevitably think about Jenny Williams.
Jenny Williams ya’ll. She is a rock star. I think she’s a wonderful cook. She says she’s not. So I suppose we should just settle for I think the things she cooks are wonderful! We were fortunate enough to have her come down again and do a cooking class with us just a week or so ago. Angel that she is, Jenny decided to take some common 4th of July recipes and mix ‘em up with a healthy twist. The recipes are included below, but I’ll talk a bit about them here first.
I think the first thing that should be noted about this food is that Jenny managed to procure all of it locally! Some from our garden, some from the farmers market, some from her neighbors yard… Every bit of it was used (along with every dish in our kitchen) and devoured and holy cow ya’ll I could wax poetic about it for ages! Jenny grew up with a lot of Indian and Middle Eastern influences in her life. These have easily extended into her cooking and I think it was a wonderful chance to expose some of us to spices and flavor combinations we’d never had before.
The dishes included a spicy green tomato relish made with apples, jalapeños, and (you guessed it) green tomatoes! There were smashed, not mashed, potatoes with salt, vinegar, and dill, a lentil kale salad, and (my favorite) sorghum glazed peaches and blackberries served with a meringue (with just a hint of bourbon). I could go on but honestly, my brain can’t focus for thinking about the food and you best just make it for yourselves and find out.
Did I forget to mention that Abby (Photo Cred) and the wonderful Randy Wilson came to play music for us? Big thanks to them!
** Short paragraph written by our interns about their experience so far!
Over the past eight weeks of our Grow Appalachia internship, we’ve learned more about and met more of our own community than we have in all of our lives. While reviewing these weeks, several very interesting characters come to mind, as well as the everlasting impact they have made in our lives. These characters have given us a good laugh and showed us the exciting parts of agriculture. This internship has boosted our interest in being active community members, especially as we give short lessons to the younger generation in the Dyslexia Summer School program! These activities never fail to amaze their young minds; our latest activity, candling eggs, piqued quite a bit of interest into the science of baby chickens. The children, however, are not the only ones with piqued interest! Venturing into participant gardens (as well as the ones at the Settlement School) has taught us techniques and ideas that simply couldn’t be taught by textbooks. The past eight weeks have been inspiring. We are truly thankful for this opportunity to become more valuable members of this community, and we will greatly miss our experiences and the people we’ve met!
Recipes courtesy of Jenny Williams:
Spicy Green Tomato Relish
I love relishes and chow chows and pickles. This one is inspired by the spicy, salty Indian pickles and chutneys I so love to serve as a condiment with grilled meats or fish, or as a topping for beans. Try it with a spoonful of plain yogurt or sour cream to cut the heat. And of course, this makes a great hot dog topping!! This will keep for about a week in the refrigerator, or you might want to can it.
- 4 large green tomatoes
- 4 sour green apples (like June apples)
- 3 jalapenos or other spicy peppers (or to taste)
- 4 cloves peeled garlic
- 1 heaping TBS mixed spices (coriander, cumin, and mustard seed)
- 1 TBS salt
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- 1 TBS sorghum
- 1 TBS oil
- Chop the tomatoes into chunks. Place these in a bowl and salt them. Let them stand for a few hours or even overnight. (You can also use a colander, but I like to reserve the salty juice for other purposes, like flavoring beans or brining chicken. You can also skip this step, but your relish will be a little watery.)
- Peel and chop the apples. You want roughly a 2:1 ratio of tomatoes to apples.
- Seed the peppers and remove the stems. Cut into large pieces if they’re big.
- Pulse the tomatoes, apples, peppers, and garlic in a food processor until it looks like you want to eat it. I like it kind of chunky. You might prefer it more finely processed.
- In a dry skillet, toast equal parts cumin, coriander, and mustard seed. When they smell good, they’re toasted enough. Put this mixture in a coffee or spice grinder and grind it up. Again, use your judgement about how fine you want it. I like it to have a little texture. I keep this on hand and put it in lots of dishes. If this is too much trouble, just use ground cumin, coriander, and mustard—but it won’t taste as good!!
- Heat 1 TBS of oil (any kind will do, really) over medium heat. Add 1 tsp ground turmeric (or skip this if you want). Add a heaping TBS of the spices you just ground. Stir frequently and don’t let this burn!! When it smells fragrant (this just takes a minute or so), add 1 TBS sorghum (or honey, or sugar—use less if you like it less sweet, or skip the sweetness if you want). Stir this mixture until it’s fairly smooth. Add the ¼ cup vinegar and stir well for about a minute or two.
- Toss the tomato mixture with the vinegar/spice mixture. Use your own judgement about how much. You might want all of it, or you might want less. How wet your relish will be will depend on how juicy the tomatoes and apples are. Taste as you go, and remember, you can always add more spices/vinegar/sweetness/salt, but it’s hard to take them out!
Salt and Vinegar Dilled Potatoes
The little new potatoes of early summer are such a treat! The skin is so tender it slips off under your fingers when you wash them. They’re so beautiful, they’re best served very simply! And remember, potatoes are a great source of potassium, so you don’t have to feel guilty about eating them—especially in this healthy, low-fat preparation! This is really a method, and not a recipe, so I didn’t include measurements. But remember, if you know what tastes good to you, then you can adjust seasonings accordingly. Just taste as you go!
- Small, new potatoes, one or two per person, depending on size.
- Cider vinegar (or experiment with other vinegars!)
- Olive oil or melted butter (same amount of calories, but olive oil is more heart-healthy. However, butter is delicious…)
- Coarse salt
- Fresh dill (or try other herbs!)
- Preheat oven to 500°.
- Arrange potatoes on a baking sheet so that they don’t touch. Roast them until a knife pierces them easily.
- Use a large jar or glass to gently smash the potatoes. You want them to stay in one piece (although it doesn’t really matter if they don’t), but you want the skin to split.
- Drizzle the potatoes with the oil or butter—it doesn’t take much. You just want to drizzle, not douse.
- Return the potatoes to the hot oven for 15 minutes or until they start to brown a bit. Watch them—how long this takes will depend on how big your potatoes are.
- On a large cutting board, pour about a TBS of coarse salt. Place the fresh dill on top and chop the two together. (This is also a great way to preserve fresh herbs—it’s so good with rosemary!!)
- When the potatoes brown, sprinkle them with vinegar (for a whole baking sheet, I use maybe ¼ cup?) and the herb salt.
Sorghum Glazed Peaches and Berries
The fruit of summer is such a gift! And fresh, local fruit is the best—so much tastier and healthier than fruit that’s travelled miles and been refrigerated within an inch of its life before we get it. This is a great topping for plain ice cream, pound cake, biscuits or shortbread, or pancakes. Or you can make a Pavlova—an airy pile of meringue. I’m no expert on this, but there are recipes online!
- 5 cups chopped peaches and blackberries (or any mixture of juicy fruits—strawberries, plums…)
- 3 TBS butter
- ¼ sorghum
- ¼ tsp coarse salt
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter and sorghum and stir until smooth.
- Toss with fruit. You can also put this into foil packets and grill it lightly for another flavor and a warm topping.
- Top whatever you’re topping (cake, meringue, shortbread, ice cream) with the sorghum glazed fruit. Sprinkle with the coarse salt—the salty flavor against the sweet fruit and savory sorghum is just right!
Cured Egg Yolks
This is my favorite new trick!! Other cultures have done this for years. It’s a great way to use up extra eggs. You can freeze the egg whites for making meringues later.
Ingredients and Directions
- Mix together 1 ½ cups of salt and 1 cup sugar. You can add in some chopped herbs (like dill or parsley) if you want.
- Spread about a third of the sugar salt mixture in a baking dish.
- Make indentations in the mixture with something—a whole egg works well. I can fit 8 egg yolks in a 9×11 pan.
- Separate the eggs, reserving the whites for another purpose. Gently place the yolks in the indentations.
- Cover the yolks with the remaining salt-sugar mixture. Cover the whole pan with plastic wrap or a lid (it doesn’t have to be airtight—in fact, it’s better if it’s not).
- Put the yolks in the refrigerator for about 48 hours.
- Gently lift the eggs from the sugar/salt mixture and brush off the excess. You can also rinse them. If you don’t they’ll be super salty but I like that.
- Put the eggs in a dehydrator or low oven for about an hour, or until they have the texture of a hard boiled yolk.
Grate or crumble over salads, pasta, potatoes—use your imagination!!
Lentil Kale Salad
I love beans! And I especially love lentils. I can only find the small brown ones around here, but I really love the French green lentils, which are smaller and hold their shape better in salads like this. While I adore meat, most of us would do well to eat less of it, and this is a good way to get some protein. It’s also a nice salad for parties, because it doesn’t have to be kept cold—in fact, it should be served at room temperature. It keeps well, and I like to make up a batch on Sunday and have it for lunch throughout the week. This salad tastes better the day after you make it, so make it ahead for a picnic!
- 1 cup dry lentils
- 1 cup chopped kale
- ¼ cup chopped spring onions
- 1 lemon
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Poach the lentils in vegetable broth or salted water until they are tender.
- Drain the lentils well, reserving the broth for other uses.
- Chop raw kale (or collards, cabbage, mustard, or other sturdy greens) fairly finely.
- Chop green onions—I love them, so I use a lot, but use what you like.
- In a jar, mix the juice and zest of one lemon with the olive oil. Shake well until emulsified.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss the lentils and greens the dressing. Top with chopped onions and grated cured egg yolks. (I’m not going to lie. Crumbled bacon is also delicious here.) Serve at room temperature.