Winter

ImageI received some bad news at the supermarket the other day. After going to three stores searching for fresh fennel bulb and not finding a single one, I asked a produce manager if he had any. He told me that fennel was going to be sparse this season because of frosts in California that damaged many crops.

Seeing my obvious disappointment, he said, "But we just got some artichokes in. Do you like those?"

"I love artichokes," I said, feeling suddenly uplifted.

He walked me over to the next aisle, and pointing to the large bin of artichokes, said proudly, "Here they are! Take your pick."

It didn't look promising. The outer leaves of the artichokes were covered in white spots. Many had angry brown streaks running up the leaves. I picked one up and gently squeezed it. It was spongy instead of firm.

Read more ...

Smokey-Turnip-and-Parsnip-Gratin-a-perfect-holiday-sideTurnips and parsnips are not a taste I grew up with. It kind of surprises me as I was exposed to all kinds of different foods, heavy with Eastern European influence (not that the turnip or parsnip originated from that part of the world). However, root vegetables were a staple in my childhood household, but I don’t remember turnips and parsnips being part of the repertoire. 

Fast forward into adult life, my husband introduced me to what is now one of my favorite tastes, parsnips. Have you ever had parsnips mashed up like potatoes with butter and garlic? Or added them to soup? They are mild and sweet, and were used as a sweetener before the arrival in Europe of cane sugar. They mimic the taste of a roasted carrot, but with more complexity. I also add them to stews for a layer of unsuspected flavor.

For me, eating turnips was just a natural progression from parsnips. They are however very different in flavor from other root vegetables, more like a peppery radish with a bitter edge. Very distinct in taste but amazing when roasted, which brings on a milder flavor.

Read more ...

grapefruitwreathFrasier Fir, boxwood, magnolia, grapevine – all traditional bases for wreaths. We can pick them up at garden centers and Christmas tree vendors and even grocery stores, but sometimes it is fun to spice up ye olde wreath with some seasonal flair.

In December’s issue of Southern Living, I took some traditional wreaths up a notch or two to festively deck our halls, doors, windows and tables with versions of wreaths donned with a bit of Holiday zest.

Rosemary and grapefruit – two of this Farmer’s favorites! From their scents to their colors and flavors, the combo of these two can be appealing to many of the senses. Sliced grapefruit and Meyer lemons combined with Savannah holly foliage and berries on a boxwood wreath is garden glam at its best!

Add fresh cut red roses in varying shades and sizes for a boost of elegance and fragrance. The jewel tones of the fruit and flowers on the deep green base are luscious!

Read more ...

copia-blog-citrus-bowl.jpgI know many of you love winter so I shall do my best not to disparage it. However, it’s not my most favorite time of year as I’m a creature of warm weather and open-toed shoes. But if there’s one bright shining spot to the season it’s most definitely citrus. Citrus in any form. When I begin to see the beautiful stacks of pommelos and meyers I can’t help but get excited and my mouth begins to experience sympathy pucker just looking at them.

Not many people realize this, but all citrus fruits come from over 4 million miles away in outer space and magically appear to make our culinary endeavors magical. Alright alright, I know I’m fibbing here but as far as I’m concerned that might as well be my reality. They are some of the most useful fruits on the planet. They preserve, they tang, they balance and they contrast. They do just about everything and anything you need them to do. And they’re equally at home in the savories as they are in the sweets. I told you there were magical!

It’s not unusual to find a big bowl of lemons and limes in my house at all times. I find that with a quick sprinkle of citrus zest even the most basic can be made to shine, not to mention the fact that they’re just so damn gorgeous and cheery, don’t cha think?

Read more ...

ImageEat your beets! We've all heard that from our moms quite often as kids. Unfortunately it was more often canned beets that we were persuaded to eat. As a curious eater, I've come to appreciate beets in many different preparations. I especially love them roasted in salads. But have you ever thought of eating them raw? Sliced very thinly, beets and other root vegetables, make great salads. Yes, it's possible to slice them thin with a knife, but a mandoline does the job better than anything else to get paper-thin shavings.

In this beautiful salad I combine three different colors of beets, plus a watermelon radish, and add pomegranate seeds for additional ruby color. The radish adds a different type of crunch and hotness. The pomegranate seeds along with a squeeze of orange juice add sweetness and tang to the salad. A sprinkling of dill adds green color as well as herbal flavor. After trying this salad, you will be surprised to find how naturally sweet beets taste when eaten raw. They are nature's candy in both taste and color.

Read more ...