Saturday, October 30, 2010

Towanda…Fried Green Tomatoes

It’s been a few years since I’ve practiced my skills of frying up green tomatoes but with the bumper crop of green tomatoes this fall I decided it was time. So, I put on my apron, let out a quick warrior cry of “Towanda” and headed to the garden to pick a mess of big green unripe fruit.

Everyone seems to have their own ‘secret’ recipe for fried green tomatoes and I always enjoy hearing the different ways folks prepare and season them. Over the years I have developed a pretty straightforward simple recipe that people seem to like (at least there are never any leftovers).

First, wash and slice tomatoes about ¼” thick. Allow the slices to sit and sweat for a 30 minutes to an hour. Sprinkle them with a seasoned salt, Emeril’s Essence which I make up myself (recipe below) or just sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Coat each side with corn meal and let them sit again for 30 minutes or so. Yeah, I know seems like there is a lot of sitting around.
Heat (med-low temp) enough vegetable oil or coconut oil in a heavy cast iron skillet to cover the bottom to about ¼”. Fry until light to golden brown, then flip each slice over and fry. Add more oil as needed with each batch. Place on paper towels before placing on serving dish. Serve warm (with a pinch of grated parmesean cheese on top). They are actually quite good cold out of the refrigerator too.
• 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
• 2 tablespoons salt
• 2 tablespoons garlic powder
• 1 tablespoon black pepper
• 1 tablespoon onion powder
• 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano
• 1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in a grinder or shaker jar.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Couple of Sweet Potato Queens

It seems The First Lady and I share some common ground… in the garden. Yes, we can both grow some ginormous sweet potatoes. I think it is safe to say, maybe even politically correct to imply we are a couple of Sweet Potato Queens, both a bit surprised at the size of our taters perhaps but proud none the less of our garden produce.
I planted a 4 x 8’ raised bed with sweet potato starts this year and was pleased at the amount of ‘Beauregard’ sweet potatoes that small area produced considering that I planted them in June and pretty much ignored them until September when I started sneaking a few here and there to cook for dinner and finally last week (Oct 25th) dug them all up, left them lay in the garden for a couple of hours then brushed off the extra soil and spread them out on a table in the garage out of direct sun to cure for a couple of weeks.
Sweet potatoes can deal with heat and less rain which was good this year since we had close to record breaking temperatures with near drought conditions mid to late summer.
I should have mounded soil up around the potatoes during the growing season as necessary but didn’t. A few tater tips were sticking up out of the soil and were a bit green. I will cut those ends off and not worry about it.
The vines grew out beyond their borders and I did trim them up a couple of times when they encroached on the strawberries. Geoff with CobraHead Tool Company lives in Austin, TX and told me he eats the sweet potato vines when he trims them. I had never heard of that and am excited to try it next summer. He says to blanch them first then sauté them in a little butter with salt and pepper. The moles did enjoy some of the fruits of MY labor as well, apparent on a few of the taters. Next year I will be more vigilant and proactive by using mole-ridding products - ‘I Must Garden Mole and Vole Repellant’ and ‘Liquid Fence Mole Repellent Worms’. I may also try placing chicken wire at the bottom of the raised bed – after all, it usually takes a village to control these tricky critters.

Sweet Potatoes pack a powerful punch when it comes to health. Dr. Robert Cordell claims that a sweet potato a day keeps the doctor away @ He continues…
“The sweet potato ranks extremely high in nutritional value according to the Center of Science in the Public Interest. The Center strongly recommends eating more sweet potatoes since a nutritious diet is one that is high in fiber, provides protein, Vitamins A, C, E, iron and calcium, is rich in complex carbohydrates, and low in fat.

More Fiber
The sweet potato is a good source of dietary fiber, which lowers the risk for constipation, diverticulosis, colon and rectal cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The fiber in sweet potatoes provides a feeling of fullness and satiety, which helps to control food intake.

More Antioxidants
Antioxidants play a role in the prevention of heart disease and cancer, and sweet potatoes supply plenty of the antioxidants, vitamin E and beta-carotene. These substances are effective in neutralizing free radicals, which are responsible for damage to cell walls and cell structures. Vitamin E also protects against heart attack and stroke by reducing the harmful effects of low-density cholesterol and preventing blood clots.

Antioxidants are essential for good brain functioning and in delay in the effects of aging on the brain. A low level of vitamin E has been linked with memory loss. A Columbia University study showed a delay of about seven months in the progression of Alzheimer's disease when subjects consumed high levels of vitamin E. This fat-soluble vitamin is found mainly in high-fat foods such as oils, nuts, and avocados. Only the sweet potato provides vitamin E without the fat and calories.
Sweet potatoes contain 1,922 mcg - RAE of beta-carotene (vitamin A) in one cup, which is more than the USRDA. You would have to eat 16 cups of broccoli to consume the same amount of beta-carotene. Health professionals believe that carotenoids give protection from the formation of free radicals and are chemoprotective against cancer. “

So go ahead and enjoy sweet potatoes as often as you can. They are easy to prepare by baking, roasting, boiling or get creative and make soup, pies and fries – you are only limited by your imagination.

One of my favorite uses for the orange tuber is in soup - here is a recipe to try...

Cindy Sue’s Sweet Potato Soup

Sauté in heavy steel pan with 1 tablespoon of butter on low heat until tender:

1 large onion, chopped
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tart apple, peeled, seeded and chopped

Melt 2-3 Tablespoons butter in a large heavy stainless steel pot sautae onion, potatoes and apple until tender.

1 can chicken broth (15 oz)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon curry
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ Tablespoon fresh grated ginger root
Simmer on low until all is cooked (mushy)

Add 3 cups cream or milk, use a hand held blender to mix until desired creamy texture is achieved. Some small chunks are okay.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Watermelon Radishes at Kiteley's Farm Market

Kiteley's Farm Market in Charlevoix, MI offers the usual suspects when it comes to produce and sometimes they offer some of the more unusual veggies for the daring or budding gourmet.

"Watermelon" radishes are just one of the discriminating varieties that customers and restaurants alike have enjoyed at the farm this year. “Red Meat” is another name for this radish but I think “Watermelon” does a better job of describing plus you have to admit it just sounds more appetizing and maybe even a bit exotic.
This is the first year they have grown these little rascals and Sue couldn’t wait to show me. I of course an enthusiastic audience; I mean just look at these, what is not exciting about them? Cut them in half and they look just like a tiny watermelon without the seeds of course.

Sue tells me that they are a great keeper after being picked; just cut off the greens which are edible (but only keep for 2-3 days) and toss the topless mini melons in the bottom of the crisper drawer in the refrigerator. They will stay crisp and tasty for a couple of weeks. The flavor is intense and sweet; just what you would expect from a radish parading as a itsy bitsy water melon. Cut them up and serve them with a dip, slice and pile them on a sandwich or shred over a salad for a color burst of flavor and texture. Sauté the greens with a little garlic and as you thin the crop use the young micro greens (with bulbs attached) in salads. This variety of radish is best grown in summer and fall and reaches a mature size of 2-4” in about 50 days. Harvest before the bulbs get old and woody. For a continual harvest, sow seeds every 2-3 weeks. To keep the greens flea beetle free, Sue covers the seed bed with a row cover.

These radishes are not only cute they are good for you too. So what are you waiting for? Order some seeds today from: and get sowin.