Two Peas in a Pod Soup

I got a lot of peas in my CSA for a few weeks, both sugar snap, and shelling peas. While I love them both raw, I was in the middle of moving and had to find a way to use what I had left before it was time to pack up the kitchen stuff. The result: Two Peas in a Pod Soup. I’m a sucker for clever names, whenever I get a pedicure, I have to read through all the names on the OPI nail polish and usually choose one based on whatever whitty name tickles my fancy rather than color.

I’ve often wished I knew how one goes about getting a job naming things like nail polish, paint, and color swatches. When I was roommates during some of my time in New Orleans with my friend Jeff (from the last post), we decided to paint each room a different color. Our favorite was the living room which was a very bright shade called curious blue. We spent a lot of time sitting in that room and saying to each other “Are you looking at my blue? It’s curious!” and giggling. It may have been that we breathed in too many paint fumes as it was August and we were experiencing a whole new level of heat and humidity and thought it best to paint with the windows closed and the air conditioner running.

That was my long winded way of getting to how I named my soup. Mike, my husband to be and resident sous chef these days, was helping me shell the English peas and when we found one with just two peas we got all mushy and joked about how they were two peas in a pod, just like us. I know it’s beyond cheesy, but cut us some slack we’re newly engaged and incredibly silly.

But on to the recipe…

½ lb. sugar snap peas, strings and tips removed

½ lb. shelled English peas

1 diced onion

1 Tbs. olive oil

2 cloves minced garlic

1 Tbs. fresh mint

1 Tbs. fresh thyme

1 tsp. cumin

4 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onion and olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent. You can use a frying pan and transfer to a large enough pot later or just sauté them in the bottom of the pot. I have a wide deep cast iron pot that works well for me.

Once the onions are translucent, add the snap peas, the shelled peas, and the garlic. Sauté for about 10 minutes until the peas are soft.

Add the chicken broth, mint, thyme, cumin, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 15 minutes.

I then transferred the soup to my food processer and pureed it. However, if you do not have a food processor that is sealed for liquids DO NOT try this, it will be a huge leaky hot mess. I’ve learned that the hard way over the years. An immersion blender or regular blender will work fine.

At this point the soup can be strained for a smooth creamy style soup, but I’m a hearty type of girl and left mine the way it was. I couldn’t let all that good fiber go to waste. I think if I had strained the soup it would have been nice chilled on a hot summer day. If anyone tries it this way let me know how it comes out.

Mike and I ate it hot with one a loaf of peasant bread from local bakery Judies in New Haven. The bread is amazing buttery and salty and extra crusty, just the way I like it!

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Lemon Strawberry Cilantro Cupcakes

I promise this is the last post about strawberries for awhile. I know it is low on the local ingredients, but I did use local eggs and milk from the Farmers Cow. Indulge me a little bit, I miss getting to bake every day.

Local strawberries always remind me of my friend Zephir who happens to be the better half of one of my oldest friends Jeff. When I was in culinary school, I did my baking internship at a restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard. This also happened the first summer Jeff and Zephir moved to the vineyard, so Jeff could run the hostile. Zephir is my most favorite cook in the whole wide world. I always love cooking meals with her. That summer she had a job at another bakery, and we both had Tuesday’s off which we spent exploring the island as it was new to both of us. One of our first adventures involved riding bikes to pick our own strawberries and it’s one of my fondest memories. Locally berries often tend to be on the smaller side and Zephir takes delight in proving my brother’s theory that all things in miniature are adorable. So whenever I get a pint of tiny local berries I think of her and about my time on the vineyard.

She and Jeff are still out there, but they have moved on to bigger and better things and run their own farm – The GOOD farm –  located in Vineyard Haven. They were both key in introducing me to the wonders of local fresh ingredients. So in honor of Zephir I created a special cupcake using the last of the berries from our CSA share.

She’s gluten and dairy free these days so the cupcake would be off limits to her, but I’m sure she would appreciate the flavor combinations, and maybe if I’m lucky she will come up with a version that suits her diet and let me feature it in the blog.

On to the cupcake, it’s a lemon butter milk cupcake filled with cilantro and lemon zest infused pastry cream and topped off with a Swiss meringue strawberry butter cream frosting. Here’s how I went at it:

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Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes

2 2/3 c. cake flour 1 1/4 c. buttermilk
1/2 tsp baking soda 4 eggs
1/4 tsp salt ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. sugar zest of one lemon
1 c. unsalted butter juice of one lemon

Preheat oven to 350

Line cupcake pans with baking cups

Sift together dry ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy

Add eggs one at a time while continuing to beat creamed butter/sugar, scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula between each egg

Add vanilla, lemon juice and zest to creamed mixture

Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry, mixing until just combined (remember to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula)

Fill cupcake baking cups 2/3 full.

I mostly made mini-cupcakes so I could increase the number of test tasters. I brought them to a family party and got good reviews, but you know, they may have been biased as my family is pretty great and all about the love and support.

For the Pastry Cream

1 c. whole milk ½ vanilla bean or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 c. sugar 1 Tbs. butter
3 egg yolks 1/3 c. fresh cilantro
1 Tbs. cornstarch 1 tsp. lemon zest

First combine the milk and ½ of the sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan and place on very low heat, whisk to dissolve sugar.

Split the ½ vanilla bean lengthwise and use a paring knife to scrape each side of the bean. Add scrapings and the remaining bean case to the milk. Add cilantro and lemon zest as well and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally.  The sugar will help keep the milk from scalding but I like to keep the heat as low as possible to maximize time for infusing the flavors. The milk should not come to a boil.

Keep an eye on the milk and stir occasionally.

Whisk together egg yolks and cornstarch and other half of sugar in a separate bowl.

When the milk is hot enough temper it in to the egg mixture slowly while pouring through a mesh sieve to remove cilantro and bean pod. The point is to introduce the heat slowly to the yolks so they don’t immediately start to cook.

Once all the milk has been added to the yolks whisk to combine and then pour through the sieve again back into the sauce pan.

Heat the mixture over medium heat while whisking constantly, makes sure to get the rim of the bottom of the pan at that is the area that will burn first if you are not keeping the heat low enough.

Bring the mixture to a boil; it will start to thicken at this point. I like to keep whisking and let the mixture boil for a few minutes to insure the cream will be thick because I always cut my cold pastry cream with whip cream to reduce the egginess flavor and if it’s not thick enough to start it will get runny. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap so that it is touching the surface of the cream to keep a skin from forming. Refrigerate.

Once the pastry cream has cooled I like to cut it a little with whipped cream. Since I really wanted to infuse the cilantro and lemon flavor into the filling for the cupcakes I first simmered the cream for about 10 minutes with about a cup of fresh cilantro and the zest of half a lemon. Then I let in cool in the refrigerator with without removing the cilantro and zest until I was ready to fill my cupcakes.

At that point I strained the cream, whipped it up and folded it into the pastry cream. I like to start with about a half cup of whipped cream and then add more if I think it needs it. It’s all dependent on personal preference; you really don’t have to add the whipped cream to the pastry cream if you like the richness without it, I was going for something lighter and more summery so I cut mine.

For the Strawberry butter cream

4 egg whites

1 1/3 c. sugar

1 lb butter, softened and cut into chunks

2 c. fresh strawberries

Puree the strawberries and set aside

Fill a pan with about two inches or so of water and let simmer. Combine the egg whites and sugar in bowl of kitchen aid mixer and place on top of simmering water. Whisk the sugar and egg whites until they reach 160 degrees. You don’t really need a thermometer for this but if it’s your first time making Swiss butter cream I suggest it because you do not want to cook the eggs. I usually just heat them until it’s slightly uncomfortable when I stick my finger in there. Not the most precise of methods but it works for me. When I was in pastry school my instructor used to call it the ouch test.

One the whites have reached the desired temperature beat them until they form stiff glossy peaks continue to whisk at a lower speed and add the butter one piece at a time.

It can look like your butter cream is breaking if the meringue was too hot when you added the butter, but if you cool it down and continue to beat it will get to the desired consistency.

Now it’s time to add the pureed strawberries, you can switch to the paddle if you’re worried about the frosting becoming too airy, but I just continued with the whisk.

Now that you have all the components it’s time to assemble the cupcakes. I use a paring knife cut out a wedge in the center of the cupcake.  Then I put the pastry cream in a pastry bag to fill the cupcakes. If you use a plastic one you don’t even need a tip. Just snip the end off.

Once all the cupcakes are filled, frost them with the strawberry butter cream. I usually pipe the frosting on in a circular motion using a star tip. I also topped each one off with some tiny berries that I had left over.

I’m hoping Zephir, and Jefferson, as he is calling himself these days (way too long of a story to get into and he will always be JD to me, but since most people know him as Jefferson of the GOOD Farm I am begrudgingly going with it for now) will let me do a detailed post about their farm, after they have time from their crazy busy summer schedules to host me for a visit once things settle down in the fall.

I’m also hoping both Zephir and Jefferson will guest post for me one of these days as they both are fantastic chefs and have taught me a lot. Some of my best memories are cooking meals with them.

Priam Vineyards

OK, my first wine trail review, Priam Vineyards, is more of a story than anything else, but as I hope you can see from my pictures, and the even better ones featured on their website, it is a beautiful place and worth the trip.

Mike and I first stopped by the vineyard on a whim on our way home from visiting friends in Rhode Island and were delighted with what we found. One of the first things we noticed were the environmentally friendly solar panels that power a large part of the Vineyard. Priam offers three levels of tastings and Mike and I decided to split the highest level in order to satisfy my curious nature and sample as much as possible. Our pourer was enthusiastic, attentive and informative all of which win high points with me because as Mike can attest to I’m not the most patient person and can get a bit cranky during these tasting if the pourer is trying to do eight things at once and I have to wait a long time in between pours. One of biggest pet peeves is when the wine pourer takes off directly after serving a sample before I get a chance to ask any questions. No issues here, the service was great.

We enjoyed the wines enough to buy a few bottles; our favorites were the Blackledge Rose and the Westchester Red. Here are the tasting notes that can be found on Priam’s home page. We then toured the grounds and were enchanted by the rustic gazebo and the tree swing which overlooks the entire vineyard. On our way out, we discovered they hosted weddings, and since we had plans for an engagement in our near future we took down some information and scheduled an appointment with their resident wedding planner Michelle.

A couple of weeks later my parents accompanied Mike and I for a personal tour of the Vineyard. I was very excited and Michelle, the resident wedding planner and Gary, one of the owners and our tour guide for the day, did not disappoint. I knew I would like Gary as soon as I saw his mischievous grin and heard that distinctive New Orleans drawl that instantly brought me back to my more adventurous early twenties when I called the crescent city home.

He told story after story about his love of the land, the grapes, and the wine in that thick as black strap molasses speech that can’t help but charm. Gary is proud of his vineyard. Proud that all the grapes are estate grown, a rarity in Connecticut, proud of the solar power panels that allow the farm to maximize natural resources, and proud of the quality of the wines he produces that truly makes Priam a local gem.

The tour ended in a wine tasting poured personally by Gary, and I was delighted and surprised by how much my mom, who is not a big drinker enjoyed the unique tastes of most of the whites. She was happily mentally cataloguing her favorite of the numbers that marked the wines off of the informative sheet that served as a map to the potent potables we were enjoying.

We were excited by how much they try to make each wedding green and incorporate locally grown foods, flowers and other local products wherever possible. However it was not to be the place for us as rentals and sight fees quickly added up and put the vineyard out of range for our budget.

Still, Mike being the wonderful guy he is did take me back to the vineyard on the 4th of July for a picnic and a surprise visit to that infamous tree swing to make it official by getting down on one knee and placing a beautiful ring on my finger. We toasted with a bottle of the Blackledge Rose, which was very refreshing for that hot summer day.

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Berries, Berries…and MORE Berries!

Berries, berries, and more berries! I hope you liked my first installment enough to come back for the different variations. I tried macerating them a few more ways. Not all of them are pictured for two reasons, one I am new to the whole photography thing and a lot of my early on shots were just not appetizing. I had to do a lot of research to figure out lighting and all that jazz, and I still don’t have the best hold on it. Reason two, though the flavors combinations were all very unique and interesting, the shots of berries sitting in a bowl with some herbs and spices were not. Reason three is my favorite and also explains why getting this blog up has been slow going and why posts may be choppy at first, but it needs its own paragraph so hopefully you won’t mind a little insight into my life before I get to the berries.

In the span of about four weeks I’ve had more going on than I usually do in a whole year. I got engaged to my awesome and very patient and supportive boyfriend Mike, met his parents for the very first time, and we are currently in the process of moving into our first apartment together. So my weekends have been take up with trying to move all of our stuff, lot’s of trips to Ikea, and the oh so fun task of beginning to plan a wedding. I’m including a pic from the day we got engaged just because I can.

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So now that you know what has been going on with me, hopefully you will understand why I still have a lot of kinks to work out in this blog. Fingers crossed that you’ll stay with me during the adjustment period. But now, back to those berries…

First up is a rosemary, vanilla, and brown sugar version. This turned out to be one of my favorites when paired with the shortcake. I used a bourbon based vanilla that worked out really well flavor wise. Once again I tossed a pint of Bishops strawberries with about 1/3 cup brown sugar, a tablespoon of the vanilla, and some fresh rosemary from my mom’s herb garden. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the rosemary and vanilla combination. The scents of both together were delightful.

On to the next combination which turned out to be my future husband’s favorite. He was hesitant at first and thought I had too many flavors going on but quickly came around after sampling a spoonful.  I tossed a pint of berries with a healthy tablespoon of maple syrup from Lamothe’s Sugar House, about teaspoon each of orange zest and fresh ginger and a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg. It was ok with the shortcake, but we both felt it would be delicious over some pancakes. Side note- his mom bought him a heart shaped pancake mold and I make him make me heart shaped pancakes with it when it’s his turn to cook breakfast. Hopefully we will get a picture of that the next time he does. He looks very cute in an apron!

I did a third combination with another pint of berries, some fresh sage, a teaspoon of lemon zest, and a tablespoon of both lemon juice and honey. Very refreshing and would be great over some vanilla ice cream.

And last but not least another pint of berries macerated with about 1/4 cup sugar, zest and juice of one lime, about two tablespoons of fresh mint and about a tablespoon of fresh thyme. The herbs came from Bishop’s Orchard. After tasting this one I decided it definitely needed to be turned into a cocktail so I added the pint of macerated berries to Sunset Meadow Vineyard rose, Sunset Blush vineyard, added an ounce of grand marnier for good measure and had myself a delightful Sangria reminiscent of a mojito and oh so refreshing in the summer heat.

I promise the vineyard visit posts will start soon. Got to get that passport stamped!

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Balsamic Basil Berries

Strawberry season would have been the perfect time to start my blog, however as is my usual style this first post is fashionably late. None the less, strawberries are a great local ingredient to start with because not only can I use one of my most simple tried and true recipes for the base of this week’s installment, but I can also give it a cute name! Get ready for some Strawberry ShortKate! My boyfriend Mike and I are splitting a CSA from Bishop’s Orchard in Guilford, CT with my parents this summer.  The experience is a new one as it will be my first CSA with Bishop’s and Mike and my Parent’s first CSA ever. I was very excited to see a quart of their strawberries in our very first share.  However since I like to be liberal with my berries, Mike and I headed down to bishops to pick a few more of our own.

Bishop’s is near and dear to my heart because I grew up in Madison and their Guilford farm Market is only a few minutes drive from my parent’s house. Probably some of my first experiences with locally grown ingredients came from Bishops. I could go on and on about the abundance of produce Bishop’s produces, but in the interest of keeping it simple will stick to their strawberries for now. You can pick your own or purchase pre-picked pints and quarts at the market.

I want the theme of this blog to be not only about local ingredients, but also about getting to try a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I love putting new twists on some of my more traditional recipes. So with that in mind I decided to try macerating my strawberries a few different ways incorporating some locally produced honey and maple syrup as the sweeteners, locally grown herbs, and few different accompanying flavors.

After much hemming and hawing and internal debating I limited myself to five combinations of sweeteners, herbs and spices in which to macerate the lovely red berries. I picked flavors that I enjoy together, but substitutions should be easy and I would love to hear what some of you come up with. So after you check out my offerings, email me at locallykatered@gmail.com.

Seriously you guys, my head was spinning and I started to get a little punch-drunk with the possible concoctions and derivations and we haven’t even gotten to the wine trail. With all the fresh ripe local fruit I should get from the Bishop’s Orchard CSA, I foresee more than one sunny Sunday afternoon spent sipping summer-fruit and herb- infused sangria.

But let’s get to it! I used a honey balsamic basil combination to macerate the first batch of berries.

I made a reduction with 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar and 2 tbs. local honey from Jones Apiaries in Farmington, CT. While that was simmering for about 15 minutes I hulled and sliced a pint of Bishop’s  berries and tossed them with some freshly torn straight off the plant basil also from my first CSA installment. When it cooled down a bit I added about 2 heavy tbs. of the reduction, drizzled a little extra honey on top for good measure, gave it all a stir and let those bad boys macerate.

For the shortkate:

2 2/3 c. AP flour 5 oz. butter
1/3 c. sugar 1 egg
1 tbs. baking powder 1/3 c. heavy cream
1 ½ tsp. salt 1/3 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla

Sift together dry ingredients out dry ingredients.

Using the food processor, pulse until the butter until it forms pea sized pieces that are more on the smallish side. I like to go a little finer than I would for a pie dough.

Transfer flour/butter mix to a bowl for the electric stand mixer.

Add the eggs, vanilla, cream, and buttermilk and mix until just combined.

Or just use your hands.

I like to just drop dollops of batter in whatever individual size biscuits seem appropriate. Probably a lightly scooped 1/3 cup would make decent vessel for transferring to a lined baking sheet. I prefer the more rustic look, but you can also flatten out the dough a bit on a lightly floured surface and use a biscuit cutter for more consistency. Just make to sure not to handle it too much

Before baking them in a pre-heated oven at 350 for xx  minutes, I like to brush them with either butter or some leftover cream and lightly sprinkle with some coarse sugar.

I like to serve the berries over warm biscuits with a healthy amount of fresh whipped cream.

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Welcome

Hi and welcome to the dress rehearsal for my new blog, Locally Katered.  Everything I have read about blogging says you should define what type of blog you have but I’m guessing like me it’s going to end up being a jack of all trades but master of none. The main theme of the blog is all things local, but the posts should be a little bit foodie, a little bit slice of life, a little bit travel/review.

Posting is probably going to be choppy at first because my life is super busy right now for reasons that will be revealed in later posts. Well, that’s not entirely true, super busy might be overstating it, what I mean is super busy for me.  Probably given my work load my production level falls below average, but I am not sure how you would determine something like that. Most likely with some sort of equation and I have been incapable of doing math without some sort of technological assist since high school.

Speaking of technological assistance, those of you who already know me may be wondering when I obtained the skills to operate the tools necessary for blogging. Or at least do so without managing to somehow break/crash/destroy said technology. That is where my behind the scenes partner, my lovely and talented cousin, Lauren comes in. She has dumbed things down for me. Actually in some cases she’s pretty much either held my hand or just straight up done it for me. I am lucky to have her and you should all go read her blog Raider of the Lost Art  as well.

Please check out my about me and about the blog to hopefully get a sense of what I am trying to accomplish. I should be going live with my first post tomorrow. If you like what you see please tell your friends or use one of the social media links below!