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Archive for July, 2008

My In-laws have been helping out at an organic farm outside of Osceola, just up the road from where they live. So last Friday, my friend Jen and I headed up there with my Mom-in-Law to visit the animals and check out the garden. It’s a small operation, but the vegetables they’ve had have been amazing. Unfortunately, it was raining the first time we stopped by. Not just a sprinkle, but a full on downpour with lightning and thunder. The animals were in the barns, the plants were hiding in the dirt. So we went to find lunch and do some shopping.

We came back a few hours later and just as soon as we reached the gardens, it started to rain again. But we were able to visit with the sheep. Myfavorite was the little black guy. I think his name is Morgan. They all took turns chewing on my fingers and bleeting. My Mom-in-law pointed out that they all make the same noise, but all have a unique sound, and she’s right. It was really cool to hear them talk to us. And yell as we walked away, up the hill, where three cows and two donkeys were grazing.

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Last weekend, I picked up a pile of tri-color green beans at the farmer’s market. I didn’t want to steam them, which sounded really, really boring and flavorless. Instead, I melted some butter in a skillet, threw in the beans, splashed some soy sauce and sprinkled some crushed red pepper. I stir-fried them until they were caramelized and just beginning to get dark. And they were so good. Salty, and sweet and a little spicy and very tender. I bought another big bag of them this week and can’t wait to do the same thing!

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I have a twin sister. So I shared my birthday with her for the first, oh, 25 years of my life. Then she moved to Ohio. Then DC. And then Denver. Around the time she left, my brother got married to a really amazing woman who’d birthday is a week before mine. So, for the last (I won’t say) number of years I’ve shared my birthday with my Sis-in-Law. I don’t mind. But every few years I get to celebrate my birthday with my parents, and just my parents. And that’s really nice. This year, due to a scheduling conflict involving a golf tournament and a flight to Nashville, I got them to myself again. And they let me choose the restaurant.

I chose Lucia’s. Which is a wonderful little spot in the uptown area of Minneapolis. It’s one of their favorites and I haven’t been there in years. Lucia is a beautiful woman who loves to fish and use local ingredients. Sounds like me, just not the fishing part.

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The girls and I went over to Highland Fest this past weekend. It’s a cute neighborhood-ish festival. We browsed the stalls, ate some cheese curds and mini-donuts, played Bingo and bought some jewelry. Apparently the fried food wasn’t filling enough, so we ran up to Grand Avenue between downpours and had lunch at the new Salut on Grand Avenue. I went there a few weeks ago and was very disappointed, but we thought we’d give it another try. And I’m glad we did.

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This is my favorite time of the year. Not because the days are long, the sun is always out, and I live near about 10,000 lakes, but the St. Paul Farmer’s Market is just loaded with goodies. (Don’t get me wrong, the other things are darn nice as well.) I went over to the market on Saturday morning alone, because husband was out of town, and I really, probably bought too much. But the options are endless. Here’s a list of what I carried home:

2 Pork Tenderloins
2 packs of Chicken Breasts
1 pack of Apple Chicken Brats
Rib-eye Steaks
Ground Turkey
Bison Burgers
1/2 dozen Sweet Corn
Baby White Potatoes
Daikon Radish
Fresh Raspberries
Tri-colored Beans
Cauliflower
Fresh Basil
Green Tomatoes

Yep, it’s a lot, and I’m only cooking for two people. Three if you include the 15 pound dog. But the meat will freeze, the basil will become pesto and the rest we’ll just have to eat. Not really a bad problem.

PS: On my drive home, I regretted that I didn’t pick up some of the beautiful tomatoes that were for sale and some fresh mozzerella from Eichtens. With my basil, it would have made for a great snack, sandwich, dinner.

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I was putzing through the garden the other day, just checking on what’s growing and what’s not growing. In the far corner, I planted what I thought was a bush zucchini plant. Looking back at my notes, it’s actually a cucumber plant. Which is fine, actually, I’ll eat both. I noticed it had taken over a tomato plant and the plants cage, which is also fine since there are a dozen other tomato plants and this is the only cucumber plant. When I knelt down and started lifting leaves to see how tightly it was holding on to the tomato plant, I noticed that there are itty bitty thorny cucumbers bursting out. How exciting! My first cucumbers. I swear I’ve tried them before with no success. I have to give my neighbors some credit here, since last fall they cut down Every. Tree. In. Their. Yard. So now I have sun. Last summer there was a deer and her fawn living in their yard. This year, its a mass of dirt and weeds. But… I have a cucumber, actually about four of ’em just starting out.

After I got over the shock of the cucumbers, I started nosing around the bush beans I planted. I started these from seeds, and it always amazes me that something so tiny and benign can grow into something so splendid. I’d been keeping an eye on the plants that sprouted up, but never having grown green beans before I wasn’t sure what to look for. Again, I knelt down, lifted a leaf and there they were. And they were everywhere. Long, fuzzy beans. I picked the plumpest (husband promptly ate one as soon as I snapped this photo) and left the skinny ones to continue growing. I’ve never grown beans before, but I am thrilled. So thrilled, I almost cried. Maybe it was the heat…. I can’t wait to throw a handful in the wok for a quick side dish.

In other garden news, nearly all of my tomato plants have green tomatoes on them. That’s very exciting and again I have to give credit to my neighbors for the increase in sun exposure this summer. This photo is of one of my green zebra’s. I’m not sure how to determine if it’s ripe, since it’s, well, green. I guess I’ll just wait for it to pull off easily.

So, there’s an update. The herbs are rocking, the peppers are slowing coming along and the lettuces have been pulled. I have an itch to plant some garlic and potatoes this fall. Oh, it’s all just so exciting!

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Sometimes I find it amazing how recipes just sort of find me. Last weekend, we picked up a Pork Tenderloin from the farmers market, and I had randomly picked up a couple plums at the grocery store the day before. Then, paging through the July issue of Cooking Light, I found a recipe for the Peppered Pork Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Plums. I had actually bought blue cheese to go with the beets I had roasted on the 4th, but sure, as long as I had it we’d use it here.

And it was good. The pork was tender and full of flavor. The plums were warm and sweet and tart, and the two together with blue cheese was a great combination. On the side I served boiled baby red potatoes (farmers market) with olive oil and sea salt, as well as sauteed leeks and farmers market zucchini with Parmesan.

I love to look down at my plate while I’m eating and know that almost everything on it was grown by a local farmer. To realize that somebody pulled this summer squash from the ground and placed it into a basket, and didn’t send it through a factory. And the difference in flavor is amazing. I challenge you to try a new vegetable from the farmers market. If it’s fresh and local, I guarantee you’ll love it.

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