I can’t believe another month for Cottage Cooking Club has come and gone… This is the time of the month to share reviews of recipes I tried from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg in July. As in earlier months, I selected from the choices presented by our group’s leader, Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness, which always reflect ways to enjoy the most seasonal ingredients. The other members of the group (there are about a dozen of us) also choose from Andrea’s lineup and at the end of the month, we compare notes.
I didn’t expect how hot July would turn out to be. In New England, we usually have about two weeks of unbearably hot and humid weather, typically one in July and another in August. Hazy hot and humid summers are the weather pattern that caused me to move away from my hometown in Maryland and never look back, at least not during the summer. It seems that with climate change, my childhood weather is catching up with me. Unlike in Maryland, here outside Boston, in our 150+ year old house, we are not equipped with central air. We suffer through with constantly whirring ceiling fans and floor fans, cold drinks, cubes of watermelon, ice cream, frequent showers, and visits to air-conditioned malls and restaurants. I’ll admit to spending my share of afternoons hanging out the public library too.
Fortunately, I cooked my chosen recipe before July’s heat wave hit. The brilliantly-green Summer Stir-Fry with Fried Rice was beautiful to look at! I picked this recipe because I don’t typically stir fry, and I’m not sure why that is. Our backyard sugar snap peas petered out at the end of June, so I headed to the Wayland Farmers’ Market to stock up on ingredients. At the stand for Two Field Farm in Wayland, MA, my friend Charlie introduced me to golden snow peas. I bought a pint to add to sugar snaps, shelled English peas, arugula and scallions (I omitted the zucchini to accommodate Howard). Stir-fried rice with an egg scrambled into it forms the base for the verdant stir-fried vegetables.
As lovely as this dish was on the plate, we found it “just OK”. Perhaps it needed more spice or we didn’t season it exactly to our taste. In any case, it was a fast weeknight meal, but not necessarily something I will make again.
I’m growing a small backyard vegetable this summer. Usually we grow peas for early summer and then cherry tomatoes and basil, but not much else. With my volunteer work at the local community farm and a new seed library launched this spring, I’ve been more inspired this year. In addition to our usual (albeit minimal) crops, I’ve added scallions, zucchini, and pickling cucumbers. (I also grew some Romaine lettuce, arugula, collards, and radishes, but they have grown, been eaten, and are gone.)
When the first of my cucumbers ripened, I decided to also make the Marinated Cucumber with Mint. No cooking required! Because my cukes were fresh off the vine, I did not peel or seed them. Other than that, I followed the instructions. The result was a light, bright cucumber salad. The fresh mint was a fresh touch. Like the stir-fry, this one was good, but not great.
To date, my experience with Hugh’s recipes had been delightful, so I’ll admit that I was a tad disappointed this month to be underwhelmed by my choices. I will be interested in seeing what other Cottage Cooking Club members thought of their recipe choices (which you can see here). And, I’ll look forward to trying out another round of recipes from the August selections.
Happy Summer! Stay Cool!
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Overheard last week at our favorite farmstand (Chipman Farm) in Maine. Uncharacteristically, there was a box of California corn for sale. Usually, they only have vegetables they grow themselves. Teenaged girls enter the farmstand, and ask the woman working “What’s the difference between California corn and Maine corn?” We were on our way back to the car, but this stopped us in our tracks. She politely answered, “California corn is grown in California, and Maine corn is grown in Maine”. The girls said, “We’d like to buy Maine corn”. Howard and I turned to each other and smirked. Howard said, “They’ll have to wait a few more months then”.
I continue to be amazed how out of touch people can be about food and seasons. We try to eat with the seasons, and this is the time of year I wait for, especially in the wasteland between the last days of winter and the long days of early spring. Summertime fresh fruits and vegetables, locally grown, are finally available.
This summer, we are members of the CSA at Waltham Fields Community Farm. We’re in the third week. So far, lots of greens (kale, collards, chard, spinach, arugula. cabbage) and spring roots (radishes, turnips, beets, scallions). I love the challenge of making meals from what we pick up each week. With this CSA, we have some choice in what we get, but it’s still limited to what’s ripe and ready and coming in from the field.
It’s also strawberry season. Last weekend, we had our annual picking and jam making weekend. We picked over 20 pounds of gorgeous strawberries at Spiller Farm in Wells Maine. Then we spent the evening making strawberry freezer jam: four batches. I prefer freezer jam to the truly canned version because the berries aren’t cooked and retain the fresh flavor when we eat it in the midst of winter. We eat a spoonful into yogurt for breakfast every morning.
Here’s a few of the things I’ve made so far:
Vietnamese Chicken Salad
I also took some inspiration from what was in the refrigerator to make this early summer salad with radishes and peas. The vibrant colors were gorgeous.
Minty Radish and Pea Salad
½ cup shelled peas
12 sugar snap peapods
1 scallion, sliced
1½ Tbsp olive oil
½ Tbsp cider vinegar
½ tsp honey
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2-3 Tbsp slivered mint leaves (from 1 large sprig)
Scrub and trim the radishes. Cut half of them into quarters lengthwise. Slice the other half thinly, crosswise.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Fill a medium bowl with ice and water. Blanch the shelled peas by cooking in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Scoop them out and cool in the ice bath. Boil the peapods for 3 minutes and transfer them to the ice bath as well. Drain the peas and pat dry. Cut the cooked peapods in half crosswise.
In a small jar, add olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Shake well to combine.
In a medium bowl, combine the radishes, peas, and scallion with the dressing. Add the mint leaves and toss well.