Okra—Now and Then, Again

September 22, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Hill Country Heirloom Red Okra

Hill Country Red Okra in my garden, mid-September

It was inevitable that I would to learn to how to prepare okra right about now. But that’s exactly how I knew it would be back when I planted okra seeds in my garden plot earlier this summer. That’s one of the great things about having a garden: it forces you to deal. If there is a vegetable you want to become familiar with in the kitchen, plant it in your garden. A pot in a courtyard or on a balcony will do just as well. Then, weeks, maybe months, later, the vegetable will have migrated from the soil to your kitchen counter, and finally into one of your cooking pots.

 

You may or may not have had ideas for the preparation of the vegetable when you planted it, and even if you did, a lot can happen along the way from seed to produce. I had pickles in mind when I planted my seeds, and, for that reason, of the two heirloom varieties I planted, Cajun Jewel and Hill Country Red, I was especially excited about the latter, described as

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Maple Black Walnut Ice Cream

August 26, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Maple Black Walnut Ice Cream_2

 

This custard-style ice cream is for devoted black walnut lovers, and wannabe lovers. It gives a double dose of the nut’s unique flavor: First, toasted nuts are ground into a flour and steeped in the cream and milk to impart their flavor, sight unseen; second, at the end of churning, finely chopped toasted black walnuts are mixed in for crunch and another layer of flavor. A few extra steps are involved in making this ice cream—like tempering the egg yolks and reducing the maple syrup—but the results are worth it. Ever since researching the inimitable black walnut for

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The War of Words . . .

August 20, 2016
By Holly Jennings

 . . . and the Personality of Punctuation

 

Paper in typewriter

 

Based on its title, you might suppose this posting is a topical one about the verbal battles between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, which have included an incendiary comment from Trump about the second amendment that seemed to many like a literal call to arms.

 

It’s about writing and editing, and the defense of good practices, a matter too small to make it into the entertainment-as-news media channels.

 

Recently, a story I wrote about coffee ice cream was published in a local food magazine. I got my first glance at the story after submitting it when I received my copy of the issue in the mail a couple of weeks ago.

 

The anonymous editor did a great job of tightening the piece without losing its heart; a couple of story points that I find intriguing were cut, but I can always pick up their thread in another story later on, if I want to.

 

It’s what was added, rather than cut, that

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Smothered Cabbage

May 06, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Overwintered cabbage, refusing to be contained it its square-foot home

Overwintered cabbage, refusing to be contained in its square-foot home

Last weekend, when looking for a recipe to smother an unruly head of overwintered cabbage into delectable submission, I came across these can-do words in Mary Randolph’s book The Virginia Housewife Or, Methodical Cook:

 

It will much ameliorate the flavor of strong old cabbages, to boil them in two waters, i.e., when they are half done, to take them out, and put them into another sauce pan of boiling water.

 

Boy have I got one of those, I thought to myself.

 

The specimen I had in mind to test Randolph’s method was eight months old, and had been growing in my garden plot since last summer when I direct sowed some Early Flat Dutch cabbage seeds, hoping for a late fall harvest. I misjudged timing and gave the poor dears too late of a start to reach their cabbage potential before the first frost came—even though in Richmond, Virginia, that can be as late as late October. When it was time to prep the plot for winter, they were just one-tenth of their cabbage selves, but I didn’t have the heart to

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Overwintered Mustard Greens

April 16, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Mustard greens in garden and in bowl copy

 

Overwintered mustard greens. Lovely sounding, isn’t it? I love what those three words evoke: a food with a stand-up-and-take-notice personality and a patina of flavor possible only after enduring hardship—the freezing depths of winter.

 

Right about now, you might find OMGs featured on the menu of some season-driven, farm-to-table restaurant in some food-lively town, along with other locally grown or foraged foods described with equally telling adjectives that marshal a world of artisanal food production: hand-pressed, pickled, preserved, house-cured, tree-ripened, aged, fermented, cellared.

 

But that’s not where I spotted my over-wintered mustard greens. I found them in my community garden plot early last month, after a premature burst of overly warm weather spun me into a frenzied gardening mode.

 

After a spate of seventy-degree days, off my husband and I went to our plot to prepare it for spring planting. That was when I discovered the mustard greens that I’d left in the ground last fall as an experiment had made through the winter admirably well. That was in mid-March.

 

Since then we’ve had two hard frosts, which had me scurrying back to the garden to throw plastic over the small seedlings that had begun to emerge, like tadpoles, around the

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On the Verge with Salted Herbs

March 15, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Salted Herbs (photo by Sonia Lacasse)

Salted Herbs (photo by Sonia Lacasse)

 

There is comfort in stasis, in trees that are barren, and fields that are resting.

 

In those frozen, darker times, time is generous. You can make it your own and, with inexpensive switch-button illumination, it’s easy for everyone to make more of it.

 

Then comes the notion of soft rains falling—not yet falling, but soon, way too soon.

 

A frantic anticipation of springtime deadlines sets in: seeds must be ordered, seedlings started, ground prepared, planting schedules established. Time is no longer your own.

 

Fall harvest is the other time Mother Nature snaps a whip. Sometimes she offers extensions, but not always, and not any that you can count on.

 

Once the food from the garden is harvested, most of the work shifts to the kitchen, my first home. Cleaned and prepped, then blanched and frozen, dried, canned, or fermented, there’s a lot of work to be done, but the payoff is greater.

 

During the unpressured off-season months, all that you need to do to enjoy your hard work is

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Leap Year Black Walnut Parsley Pesto

February 25, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Black Walnut Parsley Pesto

 

Usually, black walnuts are folded into fudge, cakes, pies, ice cream, and other sweets, where their wonderfully pungent and earthy flavor off-sets cloying sweetness, and where sweeteners round out some the nut’s sharper notes.

 

But, when eaten out of hand, the flavor of black walnuts, America’s own native nut, can be something to get used to, especially to the unschooled palate. In comparison, the familiar flavor of the reserved English walnut is facile; black walnuts require a training regimen. Black walnuts make you earn their respect.

 

Make this pesto part of your training regimen. Though it’s easy to fall in love with black walnuts when your introduction to them is in a lovingly prepared dessert, this savory treatment is just as irresistible, especially when paired with mushrooms and soba.

 

If you’re developing a taste for black walnuts, you might start with

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Black Walnuts—A Story of Love Lost and Regained

February 14, 2016
By Holly Jennings

A mature Black Walnut with full summer foliage (Photographed by Jean-Pol Grandmont, 2007)

A mature Black Walnut with full summer foliage (Photographed by Jean-Pol Grandmont, 2007)

Some new experiences are best undertaken with a guide: sky diving, rock climbing, foraging for wild mushrooms. Acquiring a taste for the Eastern Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) is another. Don’t go it alone.

 

The English at Jamestown were blessed to have the Powhatans as culinary guides in a new land, and it is they who likely introduced the colonists to the native black walnut, a nut with more protein than any other tree nut as well as high levels of healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids and oleic acid), selenium, manganese, and vitamin A. To a starving settler, the extra effort required to hull and shell this unfamiliar nut would have been worth it, to get at the nutritional riches inside.

Black walnuts on the tree (Photo courtesy of Hammons)

Black walnuts on the tree in their hulls (Photo courtesy of Hammons)

Today the nutritional value of black walnuts is lost on most of us because most of us consume them in sweets—from ice cream and cakes to fudge, brownies, and pies. If you grew up eating black walnuts, you might think nothing of snacking on them, but you are the rare bird; for many, the assertive flavor black walnut is too strong for nibbling out of hand, regardless of their health benefits.

 

The first lure that hooked me was black walnut ice cream. I order this flavor whenever I come across it, which is seldom, and the last time I encountered it was probably four or five years ago. Still, no matter how much time would pass between scoops, the memory of

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The Art of Bread, and a New Year’s Resolution

December 31, 2015
By Holly Jennings

I hate to waste food. Even bad food.

 

That’s how a loaf of bread made with more ingredients that I can count on both hands worked its way into the two photographs below, illustrating quotes that get at, with more folk wit and elan than I could wring from a slice of milk-soaked bread, why you should avoid processed, or “white,” bread.

“The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead.” —Folk saying, dating from the mid-1920s* Bread #1, 8 November 2015, Holly Jennings, America Mixed Media: Premium Potato Bread (Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Potato Flour, Soybean Oil, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Corn Flour, Mono- and Diglycerides, Datem, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Grain Vinegar, Spice & Coloring, Soy Lecithin, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Soy Flour.), 18 October 2015; Pigment print by Joseph Sudek entitled The Cemetery of Mala Strana, 1940–1950 (reprinted in Josef Sudek [1896–1976]: Sixty Pigment Prints from the Artist’s Estate [New York: Salander-O’Reilly Galleries]). *At the time this saying was coined, ultra-refined, ultra-white, and less-nutritious flour, possible with the invention of the roller mill and bleach, had become common. Not until the 1940s did American milling operations start to enrich flour with thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and iron in an attempt to compensate for the loss of nutritional value in flour milled using modern milling techniques.

“The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead.”
—Folk saying, dating from the mid-1920s*
Bread #1, 8 November 2015, Holly Jennings, America
Mixed Media: Premium Potato Bread (Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Potato Flour, Soybean Oil, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Corn Flour, Mono- and Diglycerides, Datem, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Grain Vinegar, Spice & Coloring, Soy Lecithin, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Soy Flour.), 18 October 2015; Pigment print by Joseph Sudek entitled The Cemetery of Mala Strana, 1940–1950 (reprinted in Josef Sudek [1896–1976]: Sixty Pigment Prints from the Artist’s Estate [New York: Salander-O’Reilly Galleries]).
*At the time this saying was coined, ultra-refined, ultra-white, and less-nutritious flour, possible with the invention of the roller mill and bleach, had become common. Not until the 1940s did American milling operations start to enrich flour with thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and iron in an attempt to compensate for the loss of nutritional value in flour milled using modern milling techniques.

“People who eat white bread have no dreams.” —Diana Vreeland, Empress of Fashion Bread #2, 8 November 2015, Holly Jennings, America Mixed Media: Premium Potato Bread (Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Potato Flour, Soybean Oil, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Corn Flour, Mono- and Diglycerides, Datem, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Grain Vinegar, Spice & Coloring, Soy Lecithin, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Soy Flour.), 18 October 2015; Silver gelatin photograph by Marcia Due entitled Columbia County, New York, 1993 (reprinted in Design Quarterly 164 [Spring 1995]).

“People who eat white bread have no dreams.”
—Diana Vreeland, Empress of Fashion
Bread #2, 8 November 2015, Holly Jennings, America
Mixed Media: Premium Potato Bread (Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Potato Flour, Soybean Oil, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Corn Flour, Mono- and Diglycerides, Datem, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Grain Vinegar, Spice & Coloring, Soy Lecithin, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Soy Flour.), 18 October 2015; Silver gelatin photograph by Marcia Due entitled Columbia County, New York, 1993 (reprinted in Design Quarterly 164 [Spring 1995]).

The mixed media, faux egg-colored (or it the color meant to conjure butter?) loaf of bread that I sacrificed to art came into my possession this October, during a weekend get-a-way with my husband. Destination: My family’s

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A Christmas Story from Burt and I

December 24, 2015
By Holly Jennings

The Pet TurkeyThe Pet Turkey

(Click on the link above to hear the story.)
“The Pet Turkey”
by Marshall Dodge, Robert Bryan
Originally published in an album titled Bert and I Stem Inflation (1976)


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