Of Cabbages & Kings

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OK, so I had a little fun with cabbage and a crown. Thanks to my bud JB for reminding me of this line.

It’s hard to get excited about cabbage. Even its name rhymes with baggage, bringing to mind burdens – things weighing us down. But give it a chance and it my surprise you. I think it’s the most underrated vegetable in the patch.

I got a cabbage the size of a bowling ball in my Community Supported Agriculture share last week and immediately cleaved it, setting aside half for a cabbage/kale slaw with lime dressing. Lime adds a tangy zip to any recipe, and the slaw stayed remarkably fresh for a few days. I served it instead of salad one night, and as a topper for tacos the next. It’s always a relief to have something in the bullpen at dinnertime.

I usually bypass cabbage in the produce section, but was intrigued with its appearance in my CSA basket. Loaded with nutrients, low in calories and touted for its health benefits (more vitamin C than orange juice), the dense green orb was a welcome diversion from lettuce and other greens.

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A bin of fresh cabbage outside my local Big Y supermarket. I got some in my CSA share, but there’s a bounty this time of year.

This week, Rainbow Chaser and my buddy Flower Power share their favorite cabbage recipes. Flower Power joined our CSA about a month ago, and gives it mostly positive reviews. But she’s a planner, so she says it’s hard to plot meals when you don’t know what’s coming. And she takes exception to a few limp carrots and a puny zucchini that creeped into her bin last week. I reminded her – or maybe I just thought I did – that being in a CSA is a little like having your own garden. You get what it gives, and sometimes it ain’t pretty, but still tastes good.

Will she stick with it? Only time will tell. I should point out that she and I are receiving small family-sized shares for $15/week. Not bad for a bin full of organic produce.

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Change of pace: sautéed cabbage. Add sausage, shrimp, beef or chicken for quick and tasty one-dish meal.

RAINBOW CHASER:

In my mind, it’s the Rodney Dangerfield of vegetables – it gets no respect. Other than its annual roll out on St. Patrick’s Day and starring role in cole slaw, I gave cabbage little thought. I picked around it when it was served with corned beef – to avoid eating it.

When I received a large head of cabbage in my CSA basket, I asked the Kale Queen what to do with it. She suggested sautéed cabbage. Huh? She advised that Ina Garten has a great recipe for it. I was skeptical, but she insisted it’s very good. Since I’ve discovered so many delicious vegetables that I didn’t know existed though the CSA, I was willing to give the recipe a try.

It had so few ingredients, I couldn’t imagine that the dish would be special, but when I tasted it, I was hooked. I invited my husband to try it and he demurred, but I insisted. Like me, he was shocked to find that he likes cabbage after all.

We served it with sausage and sautéed onions for dinner that night. A great meal, built around a very respectable vegetable.

SAUTEED CABBAGE

Cut the cabbage in half and, with the cut-side down, slice it as thinly as possible around the core, as though you were making coleslaw. Discard the core.

INGREDIENTS

 1 small head white cabbage, including outer green leaves (2 1/2 pounds)

 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

METHOD

Melt the butter in a large saute pan or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender and begins to brown. Season, to taste, and serve warm.

Author Credit: Ina Garten, 2001 Barefoot Contessa Parties.

FLOWER POWER:

After reading the first of several installments in this blog series on Community Supported Agriculture, I immediately wanted to try it.  I had long been curious, but didn’t really know anyone with firsthand CSA experience. After several weeks of participating, I’ve made a few great dishes: sausage and peppers, roasted tomato soup, roasted butternut squash and apple soup, some tender lettuce salads and a roasted cabbage slaw.  I was thrilled to have my first purple carrot ever and enjoyed the challenge of finding recipes to use my new bounty of produce.

On the negative side, I’m having some trouble using the amount of produce I’m receiving. Some of the greens are unfamiliar so I’m not sure what to do with them.  One week we ate out three nights in a row so I had a surplus.  I must admit on a week like that my compost gets the excess leafy greens. Overall, it’s an interesting experience. I got the following recipe from themediterreancook.com. It’s a nice alternative to cole slaw for those who dislike mayonnaise, like me. I loved the dish, which I made without the mint because I had none available.

 

ROASTED CABBAGE SLAW WITH ORANGE-GARLIC VINAIGRETTE

 

My Budding Curmudgeon

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/sail/”>Sail</a&gt;

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Sailing (not us though) on Martha’s Vineyard.

Curmudgeon: 1. archaic: miser. 2. a crusty, ill-tempered and usually old man. -Merriam-Webster

My husband is the type of guy who takes out a desk calendar every Sunday and asks everyone what they’ve got going on for the week.

He’s a bit of a control freak. Maybe it’s from being a lawyer for nearly 30 years and having to keep track of billable hours. He’s so used to being accountable for his time that he has a hard time relaxing on vacation. The longer the stretch of open time laying before him, the more unmoored he gets.

We’ve been on vacation for less than 48 hours and he’s thrown out some stuff I’ve never heard in 33 years of marriage. Here’s a sampling:

“Why can’t cats be house trained?”

“We have only four hotdogs! What are we going to do?”

“I just went to the store and there are no hotdogs anywhere!”

“I just spent $125 at the store and we’ve got nothing to eat.”

“I can’t believe I forgot to bring the Bisquick.”

“Are you crazy buying corn on the cob up here? OK, you can buy four ears.” (I buy six for 4 people.)

“I can’t believe I left all my vitamins at home.”

“I don’t have a book to read. I don’t want to use your Kindle. I’m going to treat myself and go to the bookstore.”

“I forgot to buy the Vineyard Gazette. I have no idea about the tides.”

“I can’t see (an eye infection) and I can’t walk (achilles tendonitis).

“My legs are dead.”

“Why would I want to go swimming at the YMCA in the summer?”

“There’s a new golf course in Chappaquiddick.” Me: “Hey, let’s go!” Him: “We have no clubs, no bags, no game and no money.”

“I need a new dump sticker, but I left my tax form at home. How am I going to prove ownership?”

“I’d take out the recyclables, but we don’t have a recycling bin.”

“I can’t believe I just spent $15 for a small bag of cherries and $8 for a small can of cashews.”

“The chip aisle was stripped, but I managed to find a bag.”

“Maybe we should have tried the Scottish Bake House before spending $25 for a pie.”

“Do you realize that ginger ale you bought was $6?”

Me: “Hey, let’s go sailing.” Him: “In what? Do you want me to spend $50,000 to rent the Shenandoah?”

Son: “Happy 4th Dad!” Him, swirling his pointer “Whoopdeedoo!”

Son: “Let’s go get some beach chairs.” Him: “I’m not paying $80 for beach chairs.”

“I bought cold cuts for a G Sandwich, but we need bread. Let’s get some at the store.” After going in three stores, “There’s no bread anywhere. Let’s get out of here.”

“There’s a Beverly Hills Cop special on Encore tonight. Let’s watch it.” Son: “We don’t get Encore.” Him: “We get it at home, why don’t we get it here? Do we get HBO?”

“We have to be at the picnic at 6 o’clock. How are we going to manage the beach today?”

After eating lunch, watching tennis and a brief nap: “Are we going to the beach today or not?”

On the way home from the beach: “I hate to tell you this, but there’s not much for dinner.”

I tell him I am going to write a piece and call him a curmudgeon. “Your father was a curmudgeon,” he replies. “I’d appreciate if you call me a budding curmudgeon.”

 

 

 

 

I Love Farmers’ Markets

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Hen of the Woods mushrooms from Chatfield Hollow Farm in Killingworth, CT. 

I’ve always wondered why people wait in long lines for Vietnamese spring rolls at the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market on Martha’s Vineyard.

That is until I stood in line for 30 minutes for fresh fish at the Madison, CT., Farmers’ Market on Friday. In the off-season, I drive 25 minutes to Atlantic Seafood in Old Saybrook, CT.  There are closer fish mongers, but I like Atlantic’s owners. They’re friendly, fair and split and clean lobsters for me. Best of all, they’ve got fantastic seafood, a slew of gluten-free delicacies, and tchotchkes like tiny fishing poles doubling as flame starters.

Once summer rolls around and Interstate 95 becomes a parking lot, I hit the Madison Farmers’ Market. Though I detest grocery shopping, I look forward to the Friday market, where you can buy everything from brick-oven pizza to homemade kettle corn. Sure there are veggies, but there’s also grass-fed beef, organic chicken and lamb and even exotic mushrooms. Did I mention it’s got all this and isn’t so cool it’s off-putting?

There’s a festive, almost fair-like feel to the market, a general slowing of pace and letting down of guard. People who avoid eye contact in the supermarket actually stop and greet you. Old friends and neighbors hug and kiss, catching up on the latest gossip and family news. A guitarist or band entertains the crowd, which includes everyone from young moms wheeling strollers to senior citizens. You can usually count on a few well-behaved dogs too.

At least 20 people were ahead of me when I joined the fish line, but I didn’t mind. A man and woman in front of me struck up a conversation about a ravenous woodchuck in the woman’s garden. I boldly interjected with a few gardening war stories. This would never happen in the supermarket, where shoppers hunt for the shortest lines, are glued to cell phones and roll their eyes when you unintentionally hold them up.

A friend of mine calls today’s chronic state of urgency the “Jiffy Lube” syndrome. People want to get in and out of everything as quickly as possible: the bank, the dump, the car, the doctor, vet, deli, church, the YMCA parking lot. I’m guilty of it too, but I don’t like it. I don’t remember always feeling so pressed for time.

I’ve always been struck by the silence in most supermarkets, almost an unwritten code that there’s no talking.  It’s pretty much a solitary outing, perhaps explaining why so many people dread it.

The farmers’ market is a different animal. Strangers stand in line and exchange recipes, recommend items and shoot the breeze. Vendors share snippets of their lives and throw in cooking tips. I especially like the way the vendor from the trawler Jenna Lynn II of Stonington, CT.,  offers simple cooking advice. Scallops: toss with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and broil until carmelized. I added a bunch of chopped cilantro and a handful of shrimp for good measure.

Though a recent transplant from Missouri lamented that New Englanders are cold to newcomers (an observation I will not refute), we soften and become a little more open at farmers’ markets. Maybe it’s the fresh air, sun and breeze or the promise of fresh food, but we’re at our best when we’re there. I only wish I could bottle it for my supermarket runs.

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Shrimp and scallops from the trawler Jenna Lynn II out of Stonington, CT. Toss with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and a handful of chopped cilantro. Broil or grill for an easy summer dish.

 

 

Wade’s World

via Daily Prompt: Reprieve

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Wade Michaels sorts produce at the Madison, CT., Food Pantry.

Wade Michaels is a reprieve from the bad stuff: a glimpse of hope in a sea of negativity.

I stumbled upon Wade while researching a project about food waste. It’s funny how one story leads to the next. Someone at the Connecticut Food Bank told me about Wade. So on a sunny May day, we met outside the Guilford, CT., Big Y.

Wade, produce/floral manager, battled anxiety and depression after his father suddenly died of a heart attack 10 years ago. (This is not the uplifting part.) He tried antidepressants and therapy, but didn’t feel better until he began helping others.

“I was the saddest guy in the room,” Wade, 40, recalls. “I was so wrapped up in my own stuff. Then one day I realized I had to change. I started reading Tony Robbins, who says the way to end suffering is helping people. We’re not here to take, we’re here to give.”

Wade began volunteering at the Madison Community Service Food Pantry, and his spirits began to lift. When the Connecticut Food Bank asked him if Big Y would donate surplus produce last year, Wade jumped.

Today, he rescues fresh produce from Big Ys in Guilford, Old Saybrook and Lyme, and delivers them to Shoreline food banks. Every Wednesday, he spends his lunch hour at the Madison pantry stocking shelves and handing out produce.

“It’s one of the best things I do all week,” Wade says. “I’m just getting started. Once you start helping people, you look for ways to do more.”

Though smaller than many Big Ys in the state, the Guilford store donates the most produce to the Connecticut Food Bank. Wade says he’s supported by his Springfield, MA.,-based company, which gives him a two-hour lunch break Wednesdays. But he rescues most food in his spare time.

In the past year, he’s diverted 25,000 pounds of surplus produce to food pantries. Before the rescue program began, local food banks bought fresh produce for their shelves.

“He’s awesome,” said one Connecticut Food Bank executive. “The average age of our volunteers is 70 and no one was available to rescue food from the Old Saybrook and Lyme stores. Wade took it upon himself to get produce from those stores. When presented with a problem, Wade finds ways to fix it.”

When the Lyme Food Pantry needed shopping carts, Wade got them donated. He believes nothing’s impossible if you’re willing to tackle a problem.

Madison Community Services Food Pantry leaders are overwhelmed by Wade’s volunteerism, saying they’ve never met anyone like him.

“He’s always looking out for other people,” says Vincent Diglio, who directs the pantry with his wife Margaret and Mary Hake. “Anything he can do for other people in need, he does. It’s really quite extraordinary.”

The other day, a customer asked for fresh fruit. Wade apologized that he was nearly out.  He offered apples, but the man shook his head. “I was hoping for some strawberries, maybe a melon,” he said. Wade assured him he’d put some aside for him next week.

Wade, who is married and lives in Old Saybrook, CT., is happy, and grateful that his dark days are behind him.

“My father had to pass away and I had to go through that period to change,” Wade says.

The Connecticut Food Bank always needs volunteers. To learn more, visit http://www.ctfoodbank.org.

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Fresh carrots from Big Y.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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