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Quick, delicious summer supper. August 5, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. With all the fresh, delicious produce in stores, farmers’ markets, and our gardens now, I’ll bet you sometimes find yourself with a few “odd veggies out” that just didn’t make it into last night’s dinner: a couple of ears of corn, a single summer squash, half a bell pepper, a handful of green and/or yellow wax beans, a cup of arugula or spinach. Not enough to make full servings for everyone, but impossible to waste.

I know I do! So I make a versatile, fast pasta dish that our friend Ben and I love. It’s perfect for summer, since it’s not too heavy and adapts to whatever veggies you’d like to use up, I mean, feature. Here’s the basic recipe:

Bring pasta water to a boil. While it’s heating up, add extra-virgin olive oil and butter to a large, heavy pan. (I love my LeCreuset enamelled cast-iron Dutch oven for this.) When the butter has melted, add a diced sweet onion (such as Vidalia or WallaWalla) and saute until it clarifies. Then add sliced mushrooms, a small carton or as many or few as you’d like. When the mushrooms soften and release their liquid, add salt (we like RealSalt) and pepper to taste, along with basil, thyme, and oregano, also to taste.

You don’t always have to add mushrooms, but I like to because they add a rich, filling, meaty taste. And I would never, ever skip the onion!

Now for the improvisation: If I have extra ears of corn, I’ll cut the kernels off the cob and add them. If I have Sugar Snap peas or green and/or yellow wax beans I’ll cut off the ends, cut them in half, and toss them in. If I have a yellow, orange, or red bell pepper, I’ll dice it and toss it in. If I have a lone zucchini or yellow summer squash, I’ll slice it in advance, grill it, and then toss in the grilled slices, probably saving some thinner, ungrilled slices for the salad.

Any and all combinations are delicious. I love a combo of corn and blanched lima beans (a la succotash) as well. If you wanted, you could toss in some shredded carrots and/or cabbage or yellow beets (don’t add red beets, they’ll bleed).

Once your pasta—I like spaghetti with this, but fettucine is fine, too—is almost al dente, toss in any greens (arugula, kale, spinach, collards). (Note: If you’re using fresh rather than dried basil, now’s the time to add it, too.) Then, once you’ve drained the pasta, add it to the pot, stirring well to mix. Now, add your cheese: shredded Parmesan or Swiss, alone or with the added kick of crumbled feta, blue cheese or Gorgonzola. Stir quickly to melt the cheese and then serve with cracked black pepper and crushed red pepper so everyone can season the dish to their taste.

I love to serve this with a caprese salad of multicolored ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozarella, and a drizzle of good olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and plenty of salt and fresh-cracked black pepper on a bed of Romaine lettuce. Yum!!! But you could also serve a conventional salad, saving some thin-cut squash slices, Sugar Snaps, fresh corn kernels, and diced bell pepper to add to the greens. Relax, pour some wine, and enjoy!

‘Til next time,



Summer’s end soup. August 30, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Are your counters and refrigerator exploding with produce and leftovers? Mine certainly are! If you find yourself in harvest overload, do as I did and make some soup. I was going to call this “Kitchen Sink Soup,” but since it’s fairly specific to summer produce, I opted for “Summer’s End Soup” instead. However, the “everything but the kitchen sink” rule definitely applies: Use whatever you have, as long as the flavors are complementary. Soup is very forgiving!

This particular “Summer’s End Soup” came together this way: Our friend Ben and I had just gotten a countertop oven, so I could finally bake again despite the apparent demise of our ca. 1960 Caloric gas stove’s oven. (And yes, the brand name really is Caloric. Truth in advertising!) I decided to make black bean soup and cornbread, so I could test the new oven with the cornbread. But what started out as black bean soup took a dramatic turn in a different direction.

First of all, my friend Huma had given me pretty much everything in her refrigerator and freezer before leaving the country for the academic year, including a container of whole tomatoes in tomato juice. Okay, I thought, I can put those in the soup. Our heat-loving friend and fellow blog contributor Richard Saunders had stopped by with a bunch of not-so-hot peppers, knowing that OFB and I can’t take the full-scale heat he loves. I’d succumbed to a box of the big yellow-orange tomatoes that are my all-time favorites at a local farm stand, only to discover once I got home that every one of them was overripe. I had a container of leftover brown basmati rice in the fridge. I also had an extra ear of corn and a bunch of cilantro, as well as a half-carton of plain yogurt from Huma. Everything went into the soup.

By now, you might be begging me to refrain from sharing the recipe, but I’m going to do it, and here’s why: Our friend Ben and our friend Rudy both proclaimed it the best soup they’d ever eaten. (They also polished off all the cornbread, which, thank heavens, turned out fine.) Rudy very happily took home the leftover soup, leaving a disgruntled OFB eyeing me accusingly with that “charity begins at home” look. So here it is, should you want to try it—or your own version—at home.

                 Summer’s End Soup

4 cans black beans

1 large sweet onion (Vidalia, WallaWalla or 1015 type), diced

4 large cloves garlic, minced

1 large can whole tomatoes in juice

4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 green bell pepper, cored and diced

4 small hot peppers (Thai Red or Cayenne type), minced

1 large ear of corn, kernels cut from cob

1 cup cooked rice

1 cup plain yogurt

1 box vegetable stock, any brand

1/3 cup fresh cilantro, minced

extra-virgin olive oil

lemon juice (we especially like Key lemon juice)

black pepper to taste (we like lemon pepper)

salt to taste (we like Trocomare or RealSalt, and plenty of it)

1/2-1 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and summer savory, to taste

1 teaspoon-1 tablespoon each black mustardseeds and whole cumin seeds, to taste

splash Tabasco Chipotle sauce or Pickapeppa

Pour olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy stock pot or Dutch oven (I love my LeCreuset Dutch ovens) and place over low heat. Add the onion, garlic, cumin, mustardseeds, salt or Trocomare, pepper, and dried herbs. Cook until the onions clarify, adding veggie stock as needed to prevent sticking. Add the bell pepper, hot peppers, and chopped fresh tomatoes, sauteing until the tomatoes cook down into a thick paste. (Continue to add veggie stock, a bit at a time, to prevent sticking.) Add the canned whole tomatoes and juice, mashing the tomatoes into smaller pieces with a wooden or bamboo spoon. Add the black beans, lemon juice, and cilantro.

With a potato masher, mash the beans in the pot until at least a third of them are mashed; stir well. Taste the soup-in-progress and add a splash of hot sauce if you’d like it hotter. Add the rice and corn, stirring well to mix, then the yogurt. Continue cooking on low until the soup is very thick and rich. Taste a final time and adjust seasonings if needed. Top each bowl with sour cream, shredded Cheddar, and/or fresh cilantro leaves as each person prefers.  

Serve with a crisp, hearty salad or coleslaw and hot cornbread or tortillas. Chilled cubed watermelon or cantaloupe makes a delicious, light dessert after this thick, rich soup. We Southerners like our melons with salt to bring out the sweetness, but a spritz of lime juice is also great on cantaloupe, and my parents ate theirs topped with salt and pepper! Hey, whatever works.

Enjoy your own version of kitchen sink—I mean, summer’s end—soup, and get some of that stuff out of the fridge and off the counters! You’ll be glad you did.

             ‘Til next time,


Quick summer sides. August 22, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s high summer. Finally, there’s tons of marvelous corn on the cob. There are fabulous ripe tomatoes. There are a wealth of bell peppers in every imaginable color. You’d like to enjoy this abundance while keeping the menu light and easy. What to do? Here are a bunch of summer sides that our friend Ben and I (and our Supper Club friends) just love. They’re quick, they’re easy, they’re delicious, and they go perfectly with corn on the cob and a platter of sliced vine-ripened tomatoes (preferably with fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil).

        Carrot Cabbage Confetti Slaw

Try this take on quick coleslaw and you’ll boost your immunity along with giving a big boost to your tastebuds!

1 package shredded carrots

2 packages shredded red cabbage

1 carton crumbled gorgonzola cheese (or curmbled feta or blue cheese if desired)

2 tablespoons fennel seeds (or 1/2 fennel bulb, diced fine, or 2 T caraway or cumin seeds)

1/4 to 1/2 cup sunflower kernels

1 diced sweet onion (Vidalia, WallaWalla, Candy, or 1015 type)

1/3 to 1/2 bottle Greek salad dressing, vinaigrette, or oil and vinegar

salt to taste (we like RealSalt)

Toss ingredients well to mix, then add the dressing, stirring gently but well to coat everything thoroughly. Leave out at room temp, covered, for at least an hour before serving so flavors have a chance to blend. (Needless to say, you can shred your own cabbage and grate your own carrots for an only slightly less quick version.)

               Egg Salad a la Silence

We actually love this simple but flavorful egg salad as a sandwich filling on multigrain bread with crunchy romaine lettuce and thick slices of tomato. But it’s also perfect as a salad on a bed of lettuce leaves, with arugula or watercress, as a filling for endive leaves or celery stalks, or on rounds of toast.

6 hard-boiled eggs

2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish

2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons mustard (we like Jim Beam or Jack Daniels) 

1 heaping tablespoon horseradish

salt to taste (we like RealSalt)

lemon pepper to taste

Peel and mince hardboiled eggs in a large bowl. Stir in all other ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to eat.

         Silence’s Refrigerator Pickles

These are spicy, flavorful, and long-keeping, even in the fridge. Great as accompaniments with an egg salad sandwich, confetti salad, and sweet potato chips!

3-6 slender cukes, sliced

1 cup sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon black mustardseed

1 tablespoon turmeric

1 tablespoon whole cloves

1 large sweet onion or more to taste, diced

dash hot sauce, like Pick-a-Peppa or Tabasco Chipotle

Combine sugar and vinegar and heat until sugar dissolves. Add salt, spices, and hot sauce. Layer sliced cukes and diced onion in alternate layers in a glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. When the brine has cooled to lukewarm, pour it over the cukes and onions, close the lid tightly, and refrigerate. You can begin eating the pickles in 3 to 5 days; the flavor gets stronger over time. The pickled onions are fabulous in salads and sandwiches.  

Of course, you can make your own homemade fresh salsa from yoru garden bounty, too.

           Simple Fresh Salsa

2 large or 5 paste tomatoes, diced

1 large green bell pepper, cored and diced

1 large sweet onion (Vidalia, WallaWalla, 1015, or Candy type), peeled and diced

3 scallions (green onions), minced

1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

1 lemon, seeded and squeezed

1 jalapeno pepper, cored and minced

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all together and refrigerate overnight. You can subsitute lime, orange, or even grapefruit juice for the lemon juice if you’d like a different twist on an old favorite.

       Lentil Salad

The name may not be too enticing, but the dish is beyond fabulous. Serve it over lettuce leaves with diced tomatoes and plain yogurt on top. Serve this with hot corn on the cob and barbecued chicken or wings and you’ll be so addicted! Or tuck it in a hot pita with romaine, tomato, yogurt and paprika for a delicious lunch. Yum!!!

4 cups cooked lentils

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large sweet onion, diced

6 scallions (green onions), minced

1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, cored and chopped

1 large yellow or orange tomato, diced

1 bunch fresh parsley, minced

1 bunch fresh cilantro, minced

1 bunch fresh mint, minced

juice of 1 lemon

extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Cook lentils until soft but still shapely (this shouldn’t take more than 1/2 hour, and you shouldn’t presoak them) and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in garlic, onion, scallions, pepper, tomato, parsley, cilantro, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Hmmm, looks like it’s almost time for dinner. Guess I’d better go see which of these tempting sides I’ll make tonight!

           ‘Til next time,


Simply in season. August 8, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. This week’s Frugal Living Tip focused on saving money while eating like a king by eating fruits and veggies when they’re in season, at the peak of perfection, and also locally abundant and cheap. I recommended a few of my favorite seasonal cookbooks, including one called Simply in Season.

Then yesterday, when our friend Ben, our puppy Shiloh and I were at our CSA (consumer-supported subscription organic farm) picking up the week’s produce, I saw that they’d set out recipe cards from Simply in Season, including one for “Stoplight Salad.” Since this salad takes advantage of veggies and herbs that are abundant now—tomatoes, corn, peppers, cilantro, parsley, basil, and garlic—I thought I’d share it with you all so you can enjoy it.

               Stoplight Salad

The name refers to the colors in this tasty salad. Try it using grilled rather than uncooked corn for a smoky flavor. Serve alongside grilled meats or as a light main dish. Serves 6-8.

2 cups chopped tomatoes

2 cups corn, cut off the cob

1 green and 1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, basil, or parsley, chopped

2 cups cooked black beans (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

For the dressing:

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or lime juice

1 clove garlic, minced

Whisk together in a separate bowl. Pour over salad. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently and serve.

Southwest variation: Omit the tomatoes and add to the dressing 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 3/4 teaspoon chili powder and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. [This is confusing to me. Why would you omit tomatoes from a Southwestern recipe?! I suspect they might have wanted to say “omit parsley and/or basil” instead of the tomatoes, but try it both ways and see. I think of cilantro as Southwestern and would keep it for this version along with the oregano. I’d also add at least 2/3 cup chopped sweet onion and possible chopped scallions (green onion) to either version.—Silence]

To find out more about this great cookbook, check it out at www.simplyinseason.org. As the card says, it’s “A cookbook full of recipes and reasons to eat fresh, local foods in season.” Bon appetit!

           ‘Til next time,