Tag Archives: experimenting with ingredients

A what nut?

12 Sep
by FrancineA photo of cobnuts at the supermarket

Last week I was poking around our local supermarket when I noticed a new item.

“Cobnuts,” I said aloud to Scott (my plus one), who was on the other side of the aisle rustling through onions.

“Cobnuts!” he said excitedly. 

“What are they?” I asked.

To which he selected a handful for us to crack open at home, promising I’d enjoy them.

After turning to the internet for answers, I’ll tell you what I learned about cobnuts.  They are commercially cultivated hazelnuts, the most popular is the Kentish Cobnut which has been cultivated in the region since the 1500s.  I also discovered that you can buy  cobnut oil, grown and produced in Kent.  (Remember when we visited a Kentish tea room?  Click back tomorrow, I’ll share some photos from our weekend day trip to the prettiest castle in Kent.) A photo of cobnuts Even though cobnuts are technically grown and sold commercially, Scott recounted childhood memories of checking to see if the cobnuts on the bush-like tree in his childhood garden (yard) were ready for picking.  He told me that the nuts required frequent checking to ensure you got a handful before the squirrels started munching on them too.

A photo of a cracked open cobnutAfter my internet research, we cracked open our cobnuts.  The green frilly casing was soft and easy to remove.  We cracked open the strong shell with a pair of pliers.  The next step was to remove ALL of the skin… I was told that even a small speck of skin will turn your tasty treat bitter and vile.A photo of the skin peeled

Once all the skin was removed, it was time for my first cobnut…the taste was sweet and earthy, it reminded me of the smell of freshly shelled peas, but since then I’ve heard it described as similar to coconuts.

We quickly munched through our handful of cobnuts and purchased some more on our next visit to the store. They are only in season for a few weeks and the wild ones are probably available for an even shorter period of time due to the gastronomic preferences of grey squirrels. A photo of a ready to eat cobnut

I loved discovering them at the store.  When I was in China new food discoveries were a near daily occurrence, but it hasn’t happened as much in my new home.  But when it does it makes me as excited as squirrel discovering a cobnut tree!

Do you know, can you pick wild hazelnuts in your area?  Have you ever tried a cobnut?A photo of the cobnut stages

Can You Make a Drink from Watermelon Juice?

31 Aug
by Deanne

Each week we share our successes and failures in our FarmerChef project.  This is a challenging little project we started last spring. We take whatever is growing in our garden, or available from our local farmers, and create something in the kitchen.  Our goal is to get through a whole year making something that is or was grown locally. 

This week I took a watermelon from last Saturday’s farmers market and pressed all of the juice out of it.  I was a able to get about 3 quarts of juice from one big watermelon.  Photo of Watermelon Drink

I was inspired to come up with a watermelon drink from this blog post from Putney Farm.  They suggested a lovely watermelon drop cocktail. 

While I like cocktails from time to time, I prefer non-alcoholic drinks and since I didn’t have all the ingredients, I tried adding seltzer water and lemons.  My drink didn’t really work.  Luke, my son came to the rescue by by adding limes instead of lemon and he also added basil.  It was a nice touch and he captured for us to share with his digital camera.  Thanks again, Luke!

Have you ever made a drink from watermelon?

Two Sisters and a Friend Salad with Rasberry Vinaigrette

23 Aug
by Deanne

Who knew that when we started this real local cooking journey we would discover that the recipes we would create would have a story. The salad we created for one of our FarmerChef specials has three stories.  Photo of Ingredients

The first story is about Kathleen and her beautiful golden Omega Maiden Camelina Oil. It is one of the ingredients we had on hand to help make raspberry vinaigrette for the salad. This spring, Kathleen and her husband Justin were featured on a program called On the Road with Jason Davis which is airs on KSTP News. This episode shows them bottling the oil and also using it combined with beeswax to provide a non-toxic organic mix to coat wooden toys for their Smiling Tree Toy business.

Kathleen introduced us to her sister Rachael who grows organic wheat. Kathleen and Rachel were raised by parents who have been involved in organic farming for years. Rachel and her husband started farming five years ago in Good Thunder, Minnesota.  They supply wheat to one of our favorite places to go for coffee, River Rock Coffee.  We recently purchased a few products and were anxious to try organic wheat berries.

Our friend D’Lisha, a recent guest blogger,  invited me to  her farm to pick  some wild raspberries.She is enthusiastic about growing real food and always willing to share.

As I picked I pondered, “What will I create with these raspberries?”

With  a little input from Steve, we came up with salad that had toasted wheat berries and a vinaigrette that used  all three ingredients:  Wheat berries,  camelina oil and  raspberries.  It is really cool that the wheat berries acted as a thickener for the dressing. Prepare the wheat berries first and then you can use them in this salad and other recipes

Photo of Wheat Berries


Toast 1 cup wheat berries in a dry skillet

Boil 6 cups water

Add 2 tsp salt

Stir in toasted wheat berries and simmer for 1 hour

Set aside to cool.

We decided to try a technique I saw online called salad in a jar so we modified the recipe for just one person but you can double or triple the recipe to make more jars which come in handy so you can enjoy a healthy salad on another day.photo of salad in a jar

Raspberry Vinaigrette

makes one serving

1 T raspberry juice made with ¼ cup raspberries in blender

Add :

  • 1 Tbls vinegar
  • 2 to 3 tarragon leaves picked fresh (optional, but a fun way to use herbs if you have some growing)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp camelina oil
  • 1 Tbls wheat berries

Blend together and pour in to the bottom of a quart sized mason jar.

Add approximately ¼ cup each in order

Wheat berries

Fresh cut scallions

Dried cranberries

Fill the rest of the jar with leafy greens of your preference. We used mixed leaf lettuce from our garden.

As long as you keep the jar upright and sealed in the fridge the salad will last several days. When you are ready to eat your single serving salad just turn it upside down and let the dressing drain down then mix the salad together in the jar by shaking and rotating. It is quite fun to mix the salad. Then pour the mixed ingredients in a salad bowl or plate and enjoy.

FarmerChef Special: Kohlslaw (again!)

15 Aug
by Deanne

Back on July 4th, we made a slaw out of kohlrabi but our in-house photographer, my son, was away so we didn’t have a way capture its appeal visually; so we made it again a few weeks ago and doubled the recipe because it was popular. People enjoyed having it as an alternative to the traditional cabbage coleslaw we usually serve.

One customer even made it at home, which is just what we like to hear.  She told us that her son doesn’t like kohlrabi, but he liked this recipe. 

If you haven’t tried it yet, here it is again (along with a nice photo by Luke).

Photo of KohlslawKohlslaw

  • 4-5 kohlrabi
  • 2 carrots
  • 5-6 scallions
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 canola oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar (brown or white)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

Peel the thick skin off the kohlrabi and cut into pieces. Then grate with either a food processor or by hand. 

Peel and grate the carrots.  Rinse and cut the scallions on the bias. 

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl.  Then pour over the veggies and mix well until all have been coated.

Serve immediately or store in the fridge until ready to serve.  

What kinds of dishes do you like to make with kohlrabi?

Kohlslaw: A Fresh Twist on a Traditional Recipe

6 Jul
by Deanne

We usually make coleslaw at our restaurant with cabbage.  However last Saturday the farmers’ market, the one that we hold in our restaurant’s parking lot, had kohlrabi.  It is something I’d never heard about before living in Minnesota. I thought it looked really strange, kind of like a little alien with lots of arms.  Since it is not an alien, but an abundant crop this time of year, I did a little research and found this picture and helpful information from Sweetwater Organic Community Farm in Florida.Picture of kohlrabi looking like an alienI heard farmers’ market patrons as well as restaurant customers proclaim that they love kohlrabi.  I’ve asked them how they like to prepare it.  The most common response…just bite into it like an apple.

For our FarmerChef special on July 4th we re-thought the idea of doing a patriotic recipe and kept it simple by making a slaw with kohlrabi added together with scallions and carrots from the garden.

Kohlslawpicture of kohlrabi and carrots

  • 4-5 kohlrabi
  • 2 carrots
  • 5-6 scallions
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 canola oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar (could be brown sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

Peel the thick skin off the kohlrabi and cut into pieces. Then grate with either a food processor or by hand. 

Peel and grate the carrots.  Rinse and cut the scallions on the bias. 

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl.  Then pour over the veggies and mix well until all have been coated.

Serve immediately or store in the fridge until ready to serve.  

Have you ever eaten kohlrabi? What kinds of dishes do you like to make with kohlrabi?

Beet Berry Salad: A Work in Progress

4 Jul
by Deanne
Have you ever had a great food idea in your head, but then that idea didn’t translate to the plate (aka a flop)? 

That is what happened with this salad.  I dreamed it up to be our FarmerChef special for the 4th of July holiday.  It was going to be red, white and blue.

In my head, the beets were the red,the kohlrabi would be the white, and a blueberry vinaigrette would finish out this patriotic plate. 

As you can see from the picture the color of the blueberry vinaigrette and the beets turned out to be a lovely shade of purple, just not the patriotic colors I was imagining.  It tasted pretty good, but we all agreed that the flavor wasn’t quite right (yet!). So Luke snapped a few pictures, donned the salad with a new name and Steve went back to the kitchen to create a less patriotic FarmerChef special.

This salad may show up again with a refined recipe or it may just become an interesting memory.

Photo of Beet Berry Salad

Are you creating a patriotic dish for your 4th of July celebrations?  Do you have a favorite beet salad recipe? 

Have a fun 4th and hopefully there are some flops (the sandal kind) in your day! :)

Camelina Honey Dip for Bread

30 Jun
by Deanne

Check out this simple way to enjoy fresh bread.

I thought the nutty taste of camelina oil and the sweetness of the honey wonderfully complimented fresh sourdough bread.

Camelina Honey Dip for Bread

Ingredients:Photo of Camelina Honey Dip for Bread
  • 1 Tbsp camelina oil (buy it online or look for it at MN co-ops)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Mix ingredients together in a bowl and serve with small pieces of bread.  You may need to mix the oil and honey together again as it tends to separate when it sits for awhile.

Do you have a favorite dip for bread?  Check out when Francine unexpectedly discovered a yummy dip for fresh bread.

To Cobble or To Crisp…

8 Jun
by Francine

I started off on a quest to make a crisp using rhubarb from Village Greens and Elsanta strawberries grown in our county of West Sussex…we didn’t pick them, yet.  (Picking our own will come in a few weeks. For now we rely on the ones we get from the supermarket.)  A photo of the ingredients

In the end, I made two crumbly desserts…one crisp and one cobbler…both with the same strawberry-rhubarb filling.

I ended up with 2 desserts instead of one because as I was pouring the filling into our tiny (and only) baking dish, I realized that I had too much fruit filling.  So I split the strawberry and rhubarb filling and stored half in the fridge.  Then I continued on with making an oaty strawberry rhubarb crisp.A photo of the crips

In the morning we had the crisp+some cream for breakfast…:)  It was good…very good.  I like the fact that oats are often used when making a crisp.

That evening I took the rest of the filling out of the fridge. I loosely followed this recipe to make a cobbler, but I used spelt flour instead of all purpose flour.  The cobbler was also tasty, especially when topped with clotted cream ice cream!

But the question remains…is it better to cobble or to crisp one’s fruit filling?A photo of the cobbler

For me, the answer is…crisp that fruit up! 

The crisp allowed the fruit to stay juicer, while the cobbler made the fruit a bit milky.  And I like oats and you can pile them on a crisp.  I think cobbler may suit a blueberry or peach filling better than a chunky rhubarb strawberry filling.

A photo of crisp and creamBut I should mention that when I was a teenager I made cobbler using a recipe from a dusty cookbook written by an Iowa mom, and I loved how it turned out.  The cobbler recipe I followed yesterday didn’t feel familiar.  So I’d like to dig out that old recipe and give it a try to see if I can recreate the tasty cobbler of my youth.

How about you?  Do you prefer a fruit cobbler or a fruit crisp?  You could get really crazy and try an English fruit crumble, which is pretty much just a less sweet crisp minus the oats plus more flour. (Here’s an article praising all three desserts.)

Whatever you prefer, all three desserts are a great way to enjoy the fruits of summer!

I followed Ina Garten’s recipe to make the crisp topping, but I found proportions for the fruit filling to be too sweet.  Below I share the less sweet fruit filling I created. It makes enough filling for one 9×13 baking dish or two smaller baking dishes, which is what I did to end up with one crisp and one cobbler.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Filling

Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe
  • 4 large stalks of rhubarb
  • 1 kg of strawberries
  • juice of half an orange
  • zest of half an orange
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • splash of lemon juice

Cut rhubarb into chunks.  Cut strawberries into chunks.  Mix together in a large bowl along with the rest of the ingredients. 

Use in your favorite crisp, cobbler or crumble recipe!

Red Rad Relish

24 May
by Francine

My mom, Deanne, loves radishes!  I remember that she would pile them high on her plate when we’d visit salad bars.  As a kid, I thought, ‘these pink vegetables must be really good since Mom eats so many of them.’ But yikes! too spicy for kid-me.  Adult-me loves the spicy crunch of a fresh radish!A photo of the radishes from our garden

Even though I’m in soggy England, I’ve been getting some MN sunshine in my inbox.  My brother sent me this photo last week after mom and dad dug the radishes from the garden and found all sizes and shapes of round red radishes. I know that Mom must have munched a handful of them raw before handing them over to my dad and brother, who whipped up this easy-to-make relish and served it with Quick and Crustless Quiche.

There are bags of radishes for sale in the supermarkets here.  They are English grown radishes and look just like the common red radish available in the USA.  I haven’t purchased any yet, but I think I may need to do so.  I’ll have the entire bag of radishes to myself since I’m the only one who likes them in our household.  :)

Do you pile your radishes high when you visit a salad bar? Have you ever seen a watermelon radish?

Radish Relish

(makes about one cup of relish)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup freshly scrubbed red radishes, cut in halft
  • 1Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil (or any quality oil of your choice)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • pinch black pepper

Put all in food processor and pulse until a relish consistency is reached. 

Serve a spoonful with your favorite quiche, use instead of mayo in a sandwich for a kick or serve a bit on the side of a savoury dish for a springtime touch.

Purple Sprouting Carbonara

9 May
by Francine

After watching the carbonara recipe on GamerKitchen, I was inspired to make it in our English kitchen.

A photo of purple sprouting broccoliInstead of using asparagus, I decided to use purple sprouting broccoli. It’s a lovely variety grown in the UK that seems to be the vegetable that helps the folks here get through the late winter period…when root vegetables are on their way out and cabbage type of plants take a rest until the spring sunshine warms them up again. 

I’ve come across a number of posts written by Brits in which they express their love for this first crunchy vegetable of the year…

Purple sprouting broccoli is one of the vegetable wonders of later winter. There it stands whatever the weather throws at it, and come spring it sprouts forth endless florets that have all the sweetness of a cold winter and yet the tenderness of summer to come. Alys Fowler

Instead of using ground Italian sausage, which I was unable to find at our A photo of the sausages I usedlocal supermarket, I decided to use some wholesome British raised pork sausages.  Perhaps the packaging persuaded me, as I was wearing my own red wellies (rainboots) to do the shopping. 

I cut the sausages into bite-sized pieces and sautéed them in a bit of butter.

I used gluten free fusilli pasta that was made with rice flour, tomatoes and spinach.

I took the advice of the recipe maker to get creative with the ingredients….I used a different vegetable, meat and pasta, but otherwise I followed his recipe exactly. 

It was a lovely supper for two on a rainy evening.

A photo of the dish