butter

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum) are delicate, brightly colored edible flowers with round lilypad-shaped foliage.  Similar in taste to watercress, they make lovely garnishes, beautify salads or rice paper wraps such as spring rolls, make adorable canapes when stuffed with a sweet or savory soft whipped filling, can be folded into mayo or whipped butter that’s then “set” in decorative molds and enjoyed on breads, vegetables, baked potatoes or anything else you would slather with butter.  Easy to grow directly in the ground or in containers, every garden should be punctuated with nasturtiums, not only for their cheerfulness, but their value in natural pest control.  
 
 
According to Wiki, nasturtiums have been used in herbal medicine for their antiseptic and expectorant qualities. Good for chest colds, respiratory and urinary tract infections, and to promote formation of new blood cells. All parts are edible.  The flowers contain about 130 mg (2g) of vitamin C per 100g  (3.5 oz), about equivalent to parsley. 


CRAFTING NASTURTIUM BUTTER

  • Grab your basket and gather up organically-grown flowers with some amount of stem still attached, along with a nice variety of leaf sizes. 
  • Gently wash in cool water, shake off excess droplets, and allow to air dry between sheets of plain white paper towels.  
 

  • Whip room temperature butter (sweet or salted, but do keep it organic) just enough to make it light and fluffy. 

 

  • Pinch  a generous amount of petals and snippets of stem directly into the butter.  
  • Chiffonade a couple leaves by rolling them up together in a cigar-like fashion and slicing into thin strips. Add to butter.   (Optional:  Add bits of scallion, chives or any other herbs. A little beet juice for a pink hue.)
  • Mix until well incorporated.
  • Smooth a little butter into the bottoms of your chosen molds and press an arrangement of whole flowers, buds and small leaves to design out a decorative top.  

 

mini tart/cheesecake pans with those removable bottoms are great molds!
  • Using an offset spatula, press butter into molds and smooth top. 
  • Press a piece of parchment paper on top and freeze until solid.  
  • To unmold, tap upside down on counter, or apply a towel soaked in hot water, or run under hot water for a few seconds.
Use the larger leaves as “plating doilies” for a presentation with dainty style.
Packaged and labeled, I offered these at our August South Jersey Food Swap here at OneFlewOver Farm.
 The “bottom” of one that was pressed into a mini casserole dish.
 
Wrap the unmolded butters up like a gift in parchment, then wrap again airtight in plastic.  Label and freeze for a special occasion or an everyday affair.

Solstice Shortbread

The best choice for perfecting one’s cookie dunking technique has got to be the Lorna Doone. The modifier “shortbread cookie” would be redundant there, wouldn’t it? Does Lorna make anything but? A short wide-mouth glass of ice-cold milk and a tall tower of those little squares in all their enriched flour and simulated butter-flavored sandiness challenge your ability to pull out before the dreaded premature oversaturation sends all but the wee top left corner between your thumb and forefinger to a milky grave, which is why it’s imperative to have a spoon at the ready for they tend to self-destruct within seconds of their descent.
 
Cravings for yet another of my favorite processed prepared foods with a shelf life just short of forever – although that box rarely occupied its designated space longer than half a fortnight – needed to be fulfilled with a rich organic substitute.  A preconceived notion manifested itself somewhere along the line to healthier eating habits that homemade Doones would more probably than not result in something more akin to a desert dune; thus, I never attempted.  And then I became enamored with those decorative kiln-fired shortbread molds “impressed” with vining hearts and flowers and old-fashioned country motifs.  But they were a bit pricey and I certainly  didn’t need another gadgety bulk of bakeware, a fragile one at that. That’s not to say I  failed to drop hints around obligatory “they gotta get me a gift” occasions sponsored by Hallmark and the fact that I was a wife and a mother and born on a certain day.
 
Cruising the web about a year ago for some light reading about the winter solstice, I eventually weaved my way over to one of my favorite sites, KAF, and it was here that I stumbled upon this recipe that I’d stash away until I broke down and bought myself one of those silly little molds.  
 
And then there’s Mo…
Maureen a/k/a “Mo” came into my life via a CompuServe Forum circa 1992 and has been like the “chicken soup of my soul” ever since.  If I were to compose a novel, it would probably be based on the life story of my father (1916-1975); if a book, that would definitely be  Mo’s life story.  In the meantime, I’ll just have to settle for making her shortbread in the heart-shaped gift she bought me last month. So, a wife, a mother, born on a certain day… and a friend of Mo’s.
   
 
Never much cared for the perfume-like taste of ginger, but the raw stuff is so good for you.  I had this bag of candied ginger chunks getting stale in the cupboard, which is another reason I decided on this particular recipe.  I used a little more than half of what the recipe called for.  It was processed into the flour like so, and the flavor in the cookies turned out to be pleasantly subtle.

 

a handy makeshift rolling pin that “fit the mold”
 

Next time I’ll press the dough deeper into the mold so the design is more “impressive”

Fresh Herb Butters and Succotash for the sufferin’

Sometimes a simple word will snag on my brain as it rolls off my tongue and I’ll subliminally ponder where in the world that ubiquitous word originated anyway, and how ironic it is that it sounds so perfectly right for exactly what it is. Nowadays, the etymology of just about anything, whether confirmed fact or suspicious wive’s tale, is but a quickie search and Wiki walk away. 



September is like the pentultimate checkpoint before the final curtain call on the plentitude of the “backyard-fresh” and locally-grown produce we enjoy all summer.  Dozens of just-picked, quick-blanched and sharp-sheared ears of corn from Reed’s Farm, as well as our own modest  corn crop, have already been hustled into air-tight bags for chilly weather comfort foods… think airy fluffs of custard casseroles, souffles and spoonbreads.

So, with this pensive thought of pending seasonal changes, I ventured out early Saturday morning to tend to errands I’d put off forever if it weren’t for the fact that my favorite cool weather business attire jackets were due for a dry cleaning and my swimming pool damaged hair was overdue a good chopping. Whenever I do manage to drag myself “out there,” I usually make it a mission to cram as many “necessary things” as can possibly be squeezed into that venture… motivation often coming from unnecessary things accumulating in corners and tote bags… some migrating closer and closer to the doorway as gentle reminders that it’s time to make a public appearance.
 
Heading home with a half dozen errands checked off the list, a few solid drops in the AmVets used clothing bin and no “confrontational episodes” encountered, my sense of accomplishment evolved into shameless thoughts of deserved rewards, which led to a glimmering hope that Reed’s, which is right on route, still had some corn and maybe something else of seasonal interest… besides apples.  I knew a basket of blushing ripe peaches was wishful thinking, but I’m not ready for apples just yet. Oh, joyous reward, there were limas!  Corn, too, they said for about 7 to 10 more days; thus, I knew this was to be my last “husky” haul ’til July 2013.   
 
With little regard and nary a care as to what else might round out our Sunday dinner plates, I was squarely making succotash!  I really didn’t need to store up any more corn, so I figured I’d  try some Pinterest experiments on “alternative ways to cook corn” with a few ears while hulling limas and finally getting around to whisking together fresh herb butters to freeze before a mean October frost delivered its buzz-killing blow to the herbs gone wild party in the half barrels outside the kitchen door…and then, of course, there’s that experimental corn that so graciously made itself available for the obligatory herbed butter taste test, volunteering without protest to lie still for repeated merciless slatherings…  now well-decorated kernels, a medal of honor is served.     
 

To make herbed butters:

Gather an assortment of sprigs of organically-grown herbs and/or edible flowers, chop or snip into bits and incorporate well into cold unsalted butter of the finest quality.  Spread smoothly into tin molds, jar lids, any cutesy vessel on hand, or log roll with parchment if you want to make cookie-cutter slices later.  Keep it simple or get creative with combos or a multitude of additions such as citrus zest (lime/cilantro, lemon/tarragon), boldly colorful juices such as carrot or beet (so as to use a bare minimum of liquid), garlic, crushed nuts or seeds (try hemp or chia), flowers such as nasturtium, viola, borage, or those bolting above the herbs or veggies.

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