Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lynne Rossetto Kasper extols the blessings of organic foods and celebrates the joys of supper

Lynne Rossetto Kasper, co-creator and host of the nationally syndicated radio show “The Splendid Table,” prefers to buy her veggies directly from those who raise them if she can.

She spoke at the Minnesota Organic Conference in St. Cloud Jan. 14. An advocate for sustainable and organic food for years, Kasper praised the audience of organic farmers and experts in the field for “changing the world” through their endeavors to provide high quality, organic, locally grown food.

“We’re living through a time in our history that’s never existed before,” she said referring to the burgeoning consumer enthusiasm for locally-produced foods featured in farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture programs and many eateries ranging from neighborhood caf├ęs to upscale restaurants. “This is unequalled and it’s not going to stop.”

In her most recent book, “The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper,” co-written with the radio show’s producer Sally Swift, a shopper’s manifesto is given: “Supporting local, organic, and sustainable growers and producers isn’t solely about us and our own well-being. It is about the large view — the environment, the community, the ethical treatment of people and animals, the value of the small and unique. And it’s about feeding the people you care about as best you can.”

Kasper and Swift urge preparing the recipes in their book with organic ingredients, if possible, and conclude the declaration with “In the best of all possible worlds, shop as close to the source as possible. We like handing our money over to the person who grows the lettuce.”

Kasper’s first two books, “The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, The Heartland of Northern Italian Food” and “The Italian Country Table: Home Cooking from Italy's Farmhouse Kitchens,” concentrated on the food and culture of Italy. “How to Eat Supper” is a medley of recipes with global roots served with a plethora of solid, practical advice and captivating wit. It’s absolutely downright fun to read! The masterful blend of recipes, cooking tips, trivia, eye-catching typography and color photographs creates the illusion of attending a “party full of exciting people and surprising events” simply by turning the pages of this book.

At the book signing following her talk at the conference, Kasper chose a favorite recipe from the book to share with readers of this blog — Garlic-Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes.”

Here it is. Enjoy!!! CJK

Garlic-Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes”
(from “The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper”)

1 large cauliflower with its green leaves
About 1/4 tsp. salt
5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 tbsp. good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
Generous 1/8 tsp. fresh-grated nutmeg
Fresh-ground black pepper
2 to 3 tbsp. water, or as needed

  1. Add water to a 6-qt. pot fitted with a steamer. Cover, and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, wash the cauliflower and its leaves. Cut the cauliflower leaves into thin strips. Thinly slice the cauliflower’s core, and break the rest of the cauliflower into florets.
  3. Drop the cauliflower leaves and core onto the steamer first, salting them lightly. Add half of the florets, all of the garlic, a sprinkle of salt, then the rest of the florets. Cover, and steam over medium-high heat for 8 minutes, or until the cauliflower is so tender that it is easily pierced with a knife.
  4. Drain the entire contents of the pot in a colander, then transfer it to a food processor. Add the butter and oil, and puree. Season with the nutmeg, pepper, and more salt if needed. If the puree seems dry, puree in some water. Serve immediately, or reheat later.
Yield: Serves 3 to 4
Time: 5 minutes prep time; 8 minutes stove time

A note from Lynne Rossetto Kasper: This reheats well, and holds in the refrigerator for four days. Overcooking the cauliflower is the key to this dish. It should be falling apart.

A note from Carol: I’ve always liked cauliflower but my husband, Ole, has not been fond of it since his childhood days in Denmark. He took a disliking to the way his maternal grandmother prepared it and hasn’t had much to do with this cruciferous vegetable ever since.

We prepared this easy recipe together, using the cauliflower leaves, core and florets, as instructed. The bits of green leaves add a pleasing touch of color to the whiteness. After his first bite Ole said, ‘This is the best cauliflower I’ve ever tasted!’ He honestly meant it. I really liked it, too. It has the appearance and texture of mashed potatoes and the garlic and nutmeg truly enhance the vegetable’s characteristic flavor.

“The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper — Recipes, Stories, and Opinions from Public Radio’s Award-Winning Food Show” by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift, published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers , New York, 338 pp., Copyright 2008 by American Public Media.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

‘Memories of a Farm Kitchen’ tells it like it used to be

“Memories of a Farm Kitchen” sweetly captures the essence of this ever-so-versatile room, transporting readers back in time and setting a place for them at the heavy, wooden table there that the author aptly calls “the center of the universe.”

Written and illustrated by Bob Artley, the book depicts — through his heart-warming watercolor vignettes, pen-and-ink-drawings and vivid childhood recollections — the kitchen that most Midwestern farm homes shared during the 1920s and ‘30s. His artwork and stories evoke such a cozy feeling that one might imagine actually climbing inside the pages and living with his family during the time he and his two brothers were growing up.

The short chapters not only chronicle the layout of the kitchen but also describe the various roles the room played — aside from where the family’s meals were served and eaten — it was truly the arena where most everything took place. This humble space was a medical dispensary, nursery, laundry, sewing and knitting room, scriptorium and the spot to take a bath on Saturday night. The utmost importance of the fire-fueled range is explained, as are cream separators and icebox refrigerators, rain barrels, smokehouses, cellars and attics.

Other chapters tell tales of threshers gathered ‘round the table during the oat harvest, eating from a lunch bucket (formerly a maple syrup pail) during noon recess at the boys’ one-room country schoolhouse or the occasions during mealtime when their Grandma and Grandpa shared poignant stories of their early lives.

The book is enhanced with a number of recipes created in farm kitchens of the past, some of which were handed down by Artley’s mother, Elsie, and her neighbors. A collection of 34 other recipes that Dorothy Harchanko, of Worthington, Minn., gleaned from recipe boxes and area cookbooks from the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s provides a truly satisfying “last morsel” of charm and lore to this tenderly sentimental memoir.

It’s a pleasure to share one of the time-honored recipes contributed by Harchanko — Chicken and Dumplings, courtesy of Alice Mae Duba. CJK

A note from Carol: Author Bob Artley, who co-wrote the book with his son, Rob Artley, grew up on his family farm in Hampton, Iowa. After he had become the editorial cartoonist for the Worthington Daily Globe, his watercolors and essays of life on the farm evolved into a weekly cartoon series. Since then, his nationally syndicated work has focused on the culture of rural America — he’s been sharing his memories of farm life for more than 60 years. Artley has written and illustrated 10 books, including the best-selling “Memories of a Former Kid.”

Chicken and Dumplings
(From “Memories of a Farm Kitchen”)

4 1/2- to 5-lb. stewing hen
2 1/2 cups flour, divided
2 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. pepper, divided
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 onion, sliced
4 ribs celery, sliced (with leaves chopped)
2 sprigs parsley
herbs (e.g. rosemary, thyme) to taste
6 carrots, cut into 2” lengths
1/2 cup cold water

Singe, clean and cut up hen.

Combine 2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper and poultry seasoning.

Roll chicken pieces in seasoned flour.

Brown chicken pieces in hot lard in a heavy pan.

Add water almost to cover.

Add onion, celery, parsley, herbs, 2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper.

When chicken is almost tender (after simmering about 40 minutes), add carrots, simmer till carrots are tender.

Combine 1/2 cup flour and cold water. Stir into chicken mixture. Bring to a boil.

Fluffy Dumplings
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2/3 cup milk
1 egg
2 tbsp. salad oil

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and parsley.

Beat milk with egg and oil.
Add to dry ingredients, stirring only till moistened.

Drop tablespoons of fluffy dumplings over surface of boiling chicken mixture.

Simmer, covered (do not lift lid), for 15 minutes. Dumplings are done when undersides are no longer doughy.

“Memories of a Farm Kitchen” by Bob Artley and Rob Artley, Pelican Publishing Company , 2010, 96 pp. Readers may order copies toll free from Pelican at 1-800-843-1724 or wherever books are sold.