Straw Garden Madness

Since 2012, I have been mad for Straw Bale gardens.  It gets rid of many of the past issues I’ve had growing a veggie garden which are
A Guaranteed Successful Harvest
Water Control
Pest Control
Weed Control
Composting
In the past, before the straw bale gardens, my harvest would be irregular – poor tomatoes, little or no beans and we can forget the cucumbers and peas.  Now it is a verdant delight and sometimes out of control.  And it works even if all you have is a cement slab. So I’d like to share with you my system.

1. Step one: Find the area to put in the garden Buy landscaping cloth, gopher wire and garden staples.  If you don’t have a rodent problem, skip the gopher wire and if you are putting this on concrete – you don’t have to worry about any of this.

Make sure if you are cutting the gopher wire and the landscape cloth that you have scissors and wire cutters nearby – You’ll need them.

Step 2:  Have a nice strong person bring the straw bales to the planting area (don’t wreck your own back) and put them in your placing arrangement.  Then make holes in the straw bales and start putting lots of regular lawn fertilizer (nitrogen) on the bales.  Organic fertilizer is great but you’ll need tons of it.  Then put some compost on top and for the next 2 – 3 weeks water and re-fertilize every 3 days.  I use a soaker drip system that works really well, but initially I just water with a hose.

Step 3:  Start planting.  You’ll feel the heat coming up from the bales, so you can plant once the frost freeze is over.  I also put in fence stakes (the green ones) so that the vines and the tomatoes grow upright.  For fun, I found a garden umbrella which I trained my bean vines to climb.  It looked beautiful and was easy for the picking.  I run wire between the fence stakes and start putting in my plants.  This method is so successful that you can easily turn the area in to a garden jungle by planting TOO MUCH.  So my rule of thumb is 1 tomato plant per bale.

Step 4:  Set up the watering timer and enjoy.  In several months you will have an amazing veggie garden with no weeding or work, just enjoying the fruits of the easy picking labor.  The bales will last you for 2 years, and at the end, you’ll have amazing compost to put in the other gardens on your property.
For more info about Straw Bale gardening, go to http://strawbalegardens.com/
Don’t forget that when you garden, put some Elixer Arnica cream to avoid joint and muscle stiffness and soreness.

And for fool-proof vinaigrette and salad dressing, tryhttp://saladsuccess.com/. You’ll shake your way to perfect vinaigrette every day.

It’s unanimous.  Kaua’i is ruled by roosters who announce the day starting at 5 am.  I don’t understand why food is so expensive on this island since it is ruled by chickens that are beyond range-fee.  They are everywhere: side of public highways, parks and resorts.  Watching them makes me hungry.

After a 23 year hiatus, Warren, I and the kids are on the lovely island of Kaua’i at the Kiahuna Outrigger Plantation.  In a moment of rain weather weakness, we decided to get out of Dodge (Santa Cruz) and head off to the tropics during spring break.  Kaua’i is as breathtaking as we once remembered and the resort is excellent.   We booked the vacation thru Costco (cheap bitch) and so far we are delighted with the accommodations.  If you are interested, we are staying in condo #100 which is a 2 bedroom/2 bath unit with a small and delightful view of the ocean from our living room balcony.  The unit has been recently upgraded and looks better than my house.  Beware, though, if you are an air-conditioner addict, this is not the place.  Many units use the tropical breezes to cool off the rooms.

The wild rooster of Kaua'i

Now about the important stuff.  Since it is now 8:30 am, and we got to the condo last night, I’ve had no time to check out local food, except the Safeway and Foodland.  Foodland does carry organics and local produce but I am shocked at the prices, except for Japanese cucumbers and papaya.  So for breakfast, papaya with lime and Hawaii’s excellent coffee is a treat.

Since we had no time to make dinner last night when we arrived, I grabbed a rotisserie chicken at Foodland.  Usually these are fatty and overdone with sauce, but this was succulent.  The sauce was Huli-Huli and it is brain-dead to make.  Use it to marinate or barbeque on chicken, fish, beef or pork.

Huli Huli Sauce – prepare this in the morning

1 cup of soy sauce

3 heaping tablespoon of  brown sugar

1 teaspoon of finely chopped ginger

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Mix well soy, 2 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar, ginger.  Pour mixture over meat ready to marinate in a glass or ceramic container (I use my lasagna pyrex dish).  Put remaining brown sugar on top of meat and refrigerate. Turn over meat occasionally.  After 3 – 8 hours of marinating, roast, bake or barbeque meat.

Aloha. Pictures to be up as soon as I can find editing software.

When I moved out from Colorado to California, Warren – he who should be king – sneaked in his favorite plant, a flowering clover that would test any green thumb with its finicky and sensitive nature.  Quickly in California we discovered that our delicate hothouse exotic was considered a common weed called oxalis or sour grass, and it’s the bane of every gardener.  I now spend hours in the garden carefully extracting this nuisance and its horrid seeds from the rich earth.

So you can imagine my surprise, while reading Point de Vue (an idiotic French weekly about the European royals and their social calendars, balls, gowns and jewels) I came upon an article titled “Oeufs Coque Mousseuse de Muscade Piqure d’Oxalis.  And there in the picture, was my little hated weed.  Zut alors, there is something you can do with this infernal weed and I am Queen of the Crop.  So, amuse-toi bien (go have a blast) and try this number that I’ve just finished translating, especially if you have oxalis in your backyard.  I’m going to check it out too.

Coddled Eggs with Nutmeg Mousse and a Shot of Oxalis – This is a 3 part recipe: preparing the yolks, making the cream and boiling an extract of oxalis.  Plan a good hour to test this thing.

4 eggs

8 grains of Salt from Guerande or grey French sea salt

½ grated nutmeg nut

2 ounces of vegetable bouillon

5 ounces of heavy cream

Salt & Pepper

50 stems and 15 leaves of Oxalis

DIRECTIONS

Preparing the Yolks

Decalotter (Nice word, means to take off the top) of the eggs with an egg topper (oh no, a new tool to buy)

Clarify and separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and reintroduce each yolk back to an egg shell

Heat the eggs (obviously with shells standing up) in a bain-marie for 3 minutes.  Water should not boil but should slowly cook the eggs.

When the yolks are lukewarm add Guerande salt to the  measuring cup of cream.  Now fill each egg with the cream (but leave a little space at the top).  Using a syringe filled with the oxalis and bouillon extract, pierce through the whipped cream and yolks and inject the extract of oxalis at the bottom of the shell filling the little opening that you’ve made. (Oh yes, this is definitely a recipe for beginners)

Preparing the Nutmeg Mousse

In a small pot, boil 1 ounce of the vegetable bouillon, take pot of off the fire and add the nutmeg. Cover and let it sit for 15 minutes. Mix and put it thru a coffee filter so all you get is the essence of the nutmeg.

Whip heavy cream until stiff, then add cream to nutmeg essence and salt & pepper to taste.  Put it in a pastry bag  in the refrigerator.

Extract of Oxalis

Boil the remaining ounce of bouillon, add the 50 stems and 15 leaves of oxalis, couple pinches of salt and a pinch of pepper. Cover and heat for a minute, then mix well and filter (coffee filter once again unless you have a fine sieve).  Fill the syringe and follow the instructions on the last paragraph of Preparing the Yolks section.

That’s it.  All that work for 4 eggs, you’ve got to be crazy.  On the other hands, what a great use for the oxalis.

Hurray, I am done with 2009 taxes and sending out financial packets to my daughter’s potential colleges.  So now things can get back to normal with recipes and writing.  Thanks for your patience.

I like re-gifting; it makes sense and is economical.  No more guilt about receiving a present that is useless to you or hangs around in your garage, waiting to be broken.  I’ve got a lovely 2 foot brass corkscrew that I have no use for since I like tools that are small and multi-functional.  Right now the damn thing is in its box and being used to hold up a bunch of crap.  But it was given to us by my husband’s best friend and so we are torn up about what to do with a tool that is the size of furniture.

This year my cousin gave me or really, re-gifted me a garlic press.  It has got to be the weirdest tool  I’ve ever seen and probably was last year’s hot kitchenware product.  I’ve worked with it and here is the  summary on the little monster; this tool is stupid unless you have arthritis or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in your wrist and hands, which I have.

It presses and slices garlic very well, but you cannot fill the individual wells more than half way, otherwise it doesn’t work.  It also is a bitch to clean, since the pressed garlic gets stuck in the little metal holes. It is hard to set up with the swinging metal pressure pieces, and you need to be careful with the slicer, since it has VERY SHARP BLADES.  In all, it is a crappy and badly designed product.

However, if you are like me and have pain in your wrist from squeezing or whisking, this tool works.  I don’t like using it since it is cumbersome to set up and clean.  But I have no more pain when I use this press, and that is worth its weight in gold.

Now here is my bad news.  Since we are going to Hawaii for spring break, I’d like to lose some weight and get into a moderately pleasing looking dress.  Right now, I feel like the mother blimp and I need to get this lard off of my body.  It came on from eating great food, and now it is time to come off.  Which means that I’ll be hallucinating new recipes that my family gets to try, while I go back to protein shakes,2 per day.

I’ve tried most of the protein powders, and in my humble opinion, the protein/whey powder from Herbalife tasted great, but the price tag was nuts.  Not only do they charge 3x as much for a container of the stuff, you also have to pay $11 for shipping.  Forget it.

So I use the products at Trader Joe’s and it is fine.  But since I still get hungry in the first couple days, I also add oat bran and flaxseed (love that omega-3) to help fill me up.  So here is my Caribbean Cooler recipe.    If you have any great protein shake recipes, please email me.  I am so bad at sticking to any diet or lifestyle change and can get all the help possible.

Caribbean Cooler Shake

In a blender add:

8 oz. Almond low-fat milk

½ cup frozen pineapple – Trader Joe

½ cup frozen mango – Trader Joe

1 medium or small banana in 3 pieces

2 spoonfuls of your favorite protein powder

½ cup of water

1 tsp flaxseed

1 tsp oat bran

Liquidate mixture, and voila – a wonderful filling shake.

But come evening, I can’t wait to make myself a HUGE salad with avocado, feta cheese, cucumbers and of course, a salad dressing using SaladSuccess shaker.

We are in the middle of the rainy season here in central California and sniffing the air has become an art form.  I was driving my little daughter to a play date and just as I pulled into the driveway, I smelled it everywhere.  What was that delectable odor, what was that perfume?”  Finally, it dawned on me; and field of bay leaf trees growing wild.  So, as a good little cheap bitch, I quickly tore off a few branches, thus saving myself a small fortune in bay leaf purchases.

There are other freebies that are located in my garden and grow all year ‘round; parsley, mint, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Rocket (arugula,rockette, roquette), mache (rapunzel, field salad, or lamb’s lettuce), and chives are free too, since they reseed themselves.  We call them volunteers.  When I am in the grocery stores I’m stunned how much they are charging for a small packet of herbs and forget buying mache, it’s exorbitant.  And they are all so easy to grow.  So the next thing I am putting on my gardening list, is to buy a bay tree starter.  Just think of the years of enjoyment we’ll get from this one small purchase.  And it’s a real cheap bitch purchase.

Now talking about cheap, white fishes such as Dover sole, tilapia and skai are very inexpensive at the moment.  I found both skai and tilapia on sale at my market for $3.99 a pound and decided that for under $8 dollars we would eat regally, all 5 of us.  So instead of pan frying, I want this delicate white fish to be cooked in its juices with wine, lemons, onions and herbs.  To do that, and to have an easy cleanup, I cooked the fish “en papillote” or less elegantly, in parchment paper.  This is the best and healthiest way to cook a fish other than grilling which can dry out a low fat fish.  Parchment paper from the grocery store is expensive, but a large roll (don’t worry, it’s no larger than the 200 ft of aluminum foil at the grocery store) is cost-effective and I found it at Costco.

I also made a chicken and rosemary flavored polenta which is so more exciting than rice and once again, cheap.  Polenta is one of the simplest grains to cook, but if your cupboard is bare, okay, bring out the rice.  Of course don’t forget a nice salad – greens, rocket, mache, feta crumbles with a shallot vinaigrette and a glass of Reisling (if you want to go nuts, spend the wad on Jos. Meyer’s family of Reisling wines – they are from the Alsace region of France and totally to die for).

Poisson Blanc en Papillote (White Fish cooked in Parchment Paper – sounds better in French):  Prep – 5 minutes: Cooking time: ½ hour:  Serves 4-6

2 lbs of a white fish – Tilapia, Skai, Dover Sole

¼ cup of white wine – I use 2 buck Chuck from Trade Joe’s

¼ cup chicken broth

3 -4 bay leaves

1 -2 lemons

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Set oven to 375 degrees. Place fish on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut a similar sized piece of parchment paper.  Pour chicken broth and white wine over fish, place onion slices, lemons and bay leaves on fish.  Sprinkle salt and pepper.

With the 2nd piece of parchment paper, place over fish and fold 2x both edges of parchment papers together and staple edges so that it makes a sealed package.  When complete, pop into the oven for 30 minutes.

Chicken and Rosemary Infused Polenta: Prep – 5 minutes,  Cooking time – 20 minutes, Serves 4 – 6

4 cups water

1 cup polenta

1 tsp. of chicken broth –  Better than Bouillon found at Costco or better grocery stores. (If you have liquid broth, substitute 2 cups of the water for 2 cups of the chicken broth).

1 sprig of rosemary

Boil 4 cups of water (or 2 cups with 2 cups of chicken broth, bouillon, or stock) with “Better than Bouillon” in a medium size pot.  At full boil, gently add polenta, lower heat to a simmer and whisk mixture until there are no lumps.  Add sprig of rosemary. Serve in 20 minutes.

Last night, while making Dover Sole en Papillote, I reached far back into my herbs, and brought out a huge bag of dried Herbes de Provence.  I open the bag and took a whiff – Yuck, dead herbs.  As per my rule of cooking thumb:  If it don’t smell, it don’t taste!

Years ago I was invited, along with my mother and Aunt Jessie, to a wedding shower, which is not where I shine brilliantly.  My sister-in-law grabbed me by the arm and told me to behave, and being a good woman, I quietly sat in the back while the dome of boredom surrounded my body.  We were at the worst part of the party; the party games.

Why in the hell do 20-something year old women and their mothers like these stupid games? And to make it worse, I’m suppose to join in and pretend I am having a great time.  What makes it really bad, is that if I really concentrate and play, I win EVERYTHING.  Then everyone hates me more.  So there I am, on a couch, wasting another beautiful California Saturday playing children’s games.  Then the hostess announces that the next game is Guess the Spices.  My spirits rally, I have a little fun playing this game since I know spices, and I have a great nose.

Proudly, the hostess brings out the unmarked bowls which were then passed around. In the corner, I start to hear the sounds of shock and low snickering.  The sound started to get louder and louder, and suddenly a large outburst of laughter came out of my mother, followed by my aunt (a very gentle and kind person), who said indignantly “How old are these herbs!  They’re dead.  Is this game a joke?”  Needless to say, the hostess, her daughter and my sister-in-law’s faces turned red.  They were terrible cooks who rarely used spices, let alone fresh ones. Well, all of a sudden the party got interesting and for once, I wasn’t in the hot seat.

So if you don’t want a red face or to be known as a terrible cook, throw out those dead spices and herbs and buy some new ones.  Spring is coming, plan an herb garden, and if you need herbs for the winter (mine grow year round), dry them or have fresh herbs growing by a window sill.  There are great on-line sites such as Penzey’s that sell wonderful spices, herbs and mixes.  There is no excuse for putting that dead crap in your wonderful meals.

Here’s Broccoli Soup – low fat, low cal, inexpensive and will satisfy most the picky eaters

BROCCOLI SOUP

6 large sprays of broccoli

2 quarts of water, chicken broth ($$) or chicken stock ($$$$)

2 heaping tablespoons of Better Than Bouillon (don’t use if you are using broth or stock)

4 potatoes – if you want a thicker soup

Salt and pepper to taste

Creme Fraiche, sour cream or parmesan cheese to garnish with a tab of butter

DIRECTIONS

In a large soup pot boil water with bouillon/water/stock, potatoes, and broccoli. Once soup has boiled, cover pot with a lid and reduce to a low flame for 45 minutes.  Once the potatoes are cooked, take out cooked and pulse thru the food processor, then return to soup.  Salt & pepper to taste. Garnish with a tab of butter and crème fraiche, parmesan cheese, or sour cream if available.

Okay, I’m a sucker for bargains and seem to have a jacket fetish.  When I saw this Adrienne Vittadini jacket dangling in front of my eyes at Ross (what was it doing there?), I thought it was darling, and then my eyes zeroed in on the price: 10 dollars.  Who could resist owning a little white jacket at that price?

My darling friend, Dee Dee Bowman was recently bemoaning the fact that in NYC, the high level stores have contracted with the city to DESTROY the designer clothing.  What a waste.  I understand that the designers don’t want every bag woman and man walking around in top of the line designer originals, but the idea is kind of intriguing.  Can you imagine panhandlers wearing outfits from “Sex and the City” or “Gossip Girls”?  They’d be out of business in no time (I think I’m being politically incorrect).  But instead of destroying these outfits, can’t we just have a national CHEAP BITCH on-line auction. OMG, the outfits I could stuff away in my closet. And the profits could go to charity, like Haiti or to the NYC needy. But on to soup, beautiful soup.

Watercress is a wonderful green that doesn’t get its due share.  All anyone thinks about, when they hear the word “watercress” is those damn tea sandwiches which take forever to make.  But watercress makes a wonderful soup.  My mother use to make it for us in the summer since it can be served hot, or chilled.  More elegant and delicate in flavor than Vichyssoise, add a little cream, a sliver of butter, garnish with freshly cut chives and a leaf of the watercress.

Watercress Soup – makes 4 – 6 cups.  10 minutes prep, 20 minutes cooking

32 ounces (1 quart) of water

Chicken bouillon – a soup spoon worth of Better than Bouillon (you can use chicken broth but reduce the water accordingly)

3 peeled white potatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 bunch of watercress, chopped and trimmed – save a few leaves for the garnish

Milk or Cream

Sweet butter – use Plugra if you can find it

Tablespoon of chopped chives

DIRECTIONS

In a soup pot, add water (or broth), bouillon (don’t add if you are using broth) and potatoes.  Come to a boil; reduce heat until potatoes are cooked (stick a fork into the potatoes to test).  Remove potatoes and put them through a pulse cycle of a food processor (a blender will make them too mushy) until they are finely mashed up.  Return potatoes to the pot.  Add chopped watercress and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer for 1 minute.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   In the soup bowl, put a little cream or milk, add soup and garnish with a sliver of fine butter and chives.  Serve cold in the summer.  And don’t forget to make a fresh salad using the SaladSuccess Dressing Shaker.

They stare at me in the veggie store, waving their little green stems. Like a woman possessed I rush to the bin with my bag.  I give one a quick snap.  Crisp, most and verdant, I pop the two pieces into my mouth.  They are nearly perfect.  Quickly I stuff 2 pounds worth into a bag and rush to the baby Roma tomatoes.  They are just as tasty as the cherry tomato mix but at one third the price.  I put a dozen in my bag: four for our meal, four for the salad and four to end up in my mouth.

Easy and elegant, I love sauté green beans Provençal.  It can be a meal in itself (just add some tofu to the mixture), the perfect accompaniment to a leg of lamb, or in my case, a fine trout.  All is needed is a fine dry Riesling and a mesclun salad with feta cheese crumbles and a shallot vinaigrette.

I know it is winter and I should only eat local, but I’m tired of broccoli and root vegetables.  Forget kale, an indigestible plant that can only be consumed with copious amount of oil, butter and potatoes, I’m breaking out to eat French-style green beans simmered in a tomato sauce.  After all, we hit a high of 50 degrees, which means its summer to me.  And I’m making a great meal at $2.50 per person since trout is fairly inexpensive.  If you can’t find fresh green beans, I’ve used in the past Trade Joe’s frozen French green beans which can be found in the freezer section.  They are almost as good as the real thing.  So celebrate summer in the winter and enjoy!

Sauté Green Beans Provençal Prep: 5 minutes, Cooking time: 30 – 45 minutes

1 -2 pounds of fresh or frozen green beans, with tips removed and washed

Olive Oil

1 large clove of garlic – crushed, pressed or finely chopped

1 large tomato or 4 baby romas quartered

¼ cup of water

1/4 tsp. Salt & 1/8 tsp. Pepper

Directions

With enough oil to cover the bottom of heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat (medium fire) and toss in garlic.  One minute later, toss in green beans, tomatoes, water, salt & pepper and cover tightly.  Wait until pot is steaming (about 10 minutes), then lower heat to a simmer.  Serve when ready. Add more salt & pepper to taste.

little-red-coatIn October, I found myself with my little daughter routing through the racks at Goodwill.  Her mission was to put together a Halloween costume, mine was to keep myself occupied.  Then I saw it, waving to me in all its redness.  Not just a little red coat, but a little red Pendleton stroller coat needing a new home.  Fifteen dollars later and the little red coat was mine.

Halloween came and went and finally during Christmas break, I was able to hem the sleeves of my beautiful coat and give it to the cleaners.  To my surprise, the cleaning bill was larger the cost of my little red coat but still was cheaper than buying it on Ebay (watch out for Ebay, often the prices start high – even for used clothing).  Finally, I brought my little red coat home from the cleaners and now on cold grey windy days, I am rather dashing and smiling wearing my little red coat.

I am always amaze how people can give up classical, beautifully constructed clothing that never show age and are always in style.  But I must remember the old adage, one person’s treasure is another person’s trash.  Thank you whoever you are, for my little red coat.

Now there is no segue to the next subject – Roasted Root Vegetable and Wheat Berry Salad except that it makes a wonderful side dish or meal on wintery days.  I was intrigued by David Lebowitz’s  recipe, tried it out, and have made some very necessary changes.  Most important, you must soften the wheat berry before cooking, either by soaking it overnight, soaking it for two hours in warm water or cooking it forever.  I cooked mine for 1 hour and that did not soften the berries enough.  Secondly, I did not like roasting the beets at 425 – they came out burnt and still uncooked.  My advice on beets, is to chop them, and microwave for 15 – 20 minutes, then add them to the salad.  Lastly, his salad was a bit bland and David used too much salt for my taste – we have a family member on a salt restricted diet. Instead of salt, add a sherry – shallot vinaigrette, some feta or gorgonzola cheese, and if you aren’t a vegetarian, several slices of steak. Presto, a fabulous meal.  And of course, amazingly cheap especially if you buy the wheat berries in the bulk section of the grocery store (I got mine at Whole Foods for $0.99 a pound).

Roasted Root Vegetable and Wheat Berry Salad wheatberry-salad
Six to Eight Servings
The wheat berries will take more salt that you might think, so salt the water generously that you boil them in. If you taste it, it should approximate sea water. And any assortment of firm-fleshed root vegetables will do (or butternut squash), but they should be all about the same size when diced.
This salad is open to lots of variations and interpretations.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cup (300 g) wheat berries or farro
one bay leaf

2 pounds (1kg) assorted root vegetables; carrots, rutabagas, butternut squash, celery root, parsnips, and salsify, peeled and cut into thumbnail-sized cubes
1 large red onion, peeled and diced
1/3 cup (80 ml) plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
10 or so branches of fresh thyme
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 cup (60 g) dried cranberries or cherries, coarsely chopped

DIRCTIONS
Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC).

1. Bring about 2 quarts (2l) of well-salted water to a boil, then add the wheat berries and bay leaf. Cook until tender, but still chewy. Depending on the variety, they’ll take between 40-60 minutes to cook.

2. While the wheat berries are cooking, toss the diced vegetables on a baking sheet with the onion and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and thyme, seasoning with salt and pepper.

3. Roast the vegetables in the bottom third of the oven, stirring once midway during baking, for 20 minutes, or until cooked through and browned on the outside.

4. Once the wheat berries are cooked, drain them well, plucking out the bay leaf. Transfer the wheat berries to a bowl and mix in 1/3 cup (80 ml) of olive oil and the dried fruits, stirring well. Taste, seasoning with more salt if necessary

5. Stir in the root vegetables (I don’t mind the thyme branches in there, but you can remove them if you want) and do a final check for seasoning and add more salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and additional olive oil, if desired.  Add a shallot vinaigrette (3 spoonfuls of olive oil, one spoonful of sherry or balsamic vinegar, ½ spoonful of French Dijon mustard, dash of salt and pepper, one finely chopped clove of garlic, and whisk well)

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Storage: Can be made up to three days in advance, and refrigerated. Let come to room temperature before serving.

Here are some possible additions to add to the finished salad:

Microwaved beets

Toasted and coarsely chopped pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts

Diced dried apricots in place of the cranberries or cherries

Cubes of feta or bleu cheese strewn over the top

A big squeeze of fresh lemon or tangerine juice, or some zest

Sautéed mushrooms tossed in with the root vegetables

Wilted greens, cooked with garlic, coarsely chopped

A generous handful of spicy arugula or flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Green Scallions

Steak slices

Thanks you David for this recipe – recipe provided courtesy of David Lebovitz

Colmar is famous for its waterways and architecture.

Colmar is famous for its waterways and architecture.

Twenty-two years ago my husband Warren asked me “What is your mother making us for dinner, tonight”?  As I mumbled the words “choucroute”, I felt my heart sink.  “What’s choucroute?” replied Warren innocently.  “Sauerkraut“, I whispered.  Warren’s face fell, and a look of a trapped animal appeared across his face.  It was too late to cancel and escape from the doom of a sauerkraut dinner.

Now to understand Warren’s reaction, you need to know that his mother, Georgia, was a typical mid-western cook of German extraction.  Her idea to cook sauerkraut was to get it out of a can and fry it in a skillet.  An epicurean nightmare.  However, I, of the French mother, loved choucroute, an Alsatian delight in which the choucroute is cooked for hours in spices, wine, and meats.

So Warren, the captured prisoner of doom, sat almost in tears at my mother’s dinner table, hesitantly put a small amount of choucroute on his fork and swallowed.  Suddenly, his eyes lit up and a smile came over his face.  “No way, this is sauerkraut” he said, “this is food for the Gods”, and had two more helpings.  Now when we are touring around Alsace, Warren is always chatting up the locals to find out which restaurant makes the best choucroute and makes a beeline to that restaurant.

If you ever go to the Alsatian countryside of France in the fall, you’ll notice that cabbage is king.  Cabbage, potatoes and pork are the main staple of Northern Europe especially in the winter. And no one makes choucroute better than the Alsatian brasseries.  It is a delight and excellent for the digestive systems, so I’m told.

Now, every year we host a New Year’s Day party, and celebrate by serving choucroute and Riesling wines from Alsace.  In Northern Europe, it is good luck to start the new year with choucroute, and what could be better, than to make sure that friends start out the year on a good and healthy path.

So I part with you my recipe.  Bear in mind that choucroute is very flexible, so throw in as much pork, sausages, and potatoes as you want.  Warren loves the tiny sausages, I like Aidell’s Roasted Garlic and Gruyere, and Christie loves kielbasa.  I make mine in a crock pot and triple the recipe since my pot is holds 6 quarts. And yesterday, my daughter Suzanne begged me to make choucroute, Alsatian sauerkraut.  “Mom, I love it, it’s easy to heat up for school and it fills me up.  And make sure you make it with extra sauerkraut”.

The Real Choucroute of Alsace – approx. 4 hours of cooking

Ingredients

1 bag of sauerkraut – you can find it at the grocery stores in a refrigerated area near the

pickles and hot dogs.  MAKE SURE YOU RINSE the sauerkraut 3 TIMES

1 onion thinly slices

3 tablespoon of lard

1 pound (or a bag) of sauerkraut

Cup of white wine

1 apple coarsely chopped

10 juniper berries tied in a cheese cloth

Chicken stock

1 pound slab of smoke lean bacon

Several peeled potatoes

1 tablespoon kirch (optional)

4 smoked pork chops

4 high quality Frankfurt sausages or any favorite sausage

Heaping tsp. of caraway seeds

DIRECTIONS

In a Dutch oven or crock pot, cook onion and lard until soft.

Add sauerkraut and a dash of water.

Simmer mixture for 5 minutes, stirring often

Add wine, apple, juniper berries and enough stock to cover and cook on low heat for 3 hours

Add bacon and potatoes.  Cook for 30 minutes

Add kirsch, pork chops and sausages, and cook for a remaining 30 minutes.

Remove juniper berries before serving and sprinkle caraway seeds.

Salt and pepper to taste

Often I’ll throw in ham slices, a ham bone or hocks for flavoring.