by Jenni McHugh
When I was in sixth grade my mom wrote a backpacking cookbook (yes, there is such a thing!) called The Hungry Hiker’s Book of Good Cooking. She and her backpacking cronies loved good food and being in the woods, but couldn’t find any freeze-dried meals that tasted better than cardboard. So, my mom went into the kitchen and started testing recipes.
My mom was diagnosed with dementia a few years ago, at age 65. She doesn’t cook anymore but I like to think that her sense of adventure in the kitchen lives on when I take a risk with a new recipe or experiment with an old one using my own culinary imagination.
It is with my mom’s spirit in mind that I’d like to encourage you to challenge yourself in the kitchen this month. September is a heavenly time for local eating because both summer and fall crops abound. There is no better month to try something new, like a recipe that looks weird or includes fruits and vegetables seemingly way too different to share the same pot. Be bold, local eater, be bold. Welcome diversity into your kitchen and relish the fruits of your labors!
The following recipe challenged me because I never would have thought of combining cucumbers and watermelon with hot pepper and hoisin sauce (available in the Asian section of grocery stores) were it not for my friend Peggy, who first turned me onto this dazzling salad. Try it with black bean burritos or a cream-cheese omelet.
(Adapted from Peggy Hanson, a Lanseboro locavore, who adapted it from a recipe that appeared in The New York Times on August 17, 2010)
4 cups watermelon, seeded and cut into ½-inch cubes
3 cups cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into ½-inch cubes
3 ½ Tbs. fresh lime juice
3 Tbs. hoisin sauce
2 tsp. finely diced Serrano or jalapeno pepper
½ tsp. salt
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Optional—1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1.Combine melon and cucumber in a colander set over a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.
2.Transfer melon and cucumber to serving bowl. Whisk lime juice, hoisin sauce, hot pepper, and salt in a small bowl and pour over cucumber and melon. Add cilantro and toss gently. Add black pepper and additional salt if needed. If desired, sprinkle salad with toasted pumpkin seeds.
It’s hard to imagine doing anything with fall raspberries other than popping them in your mouth one after the other, but the baker in me can’t resist the following muffin recipe from Beyond the Moon Cookbook—just the thing to warm up the house on a crisp September afternoon. If you are feeling adventurous, go ahead and add a tablespoon of peeled and grated ginger to the wet ingredients. (One of the best discoveries I made this summer was a jar of pre-minced ginger in the produce section at Midtown Foods. I am sure you can find this at other grocery stores as well).
Lemon Raspberry Muffins
(Adapted from Beyond the Moon Cookbook by Ginny Callan. HarperCollins, 1996)
1 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour (available at Bluff Country Co-op)
1 ¼ cups unbleached white flour
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbs. baking powder
2 large eggs
½ cup honey
½ cup canola oil
½ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ cups fresh raspberries (frozen work, too)
1.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
2.Stir together the flours, salt, and baking powder in a medium-size bowl.
3.In another bowl, beat the eggs with the honey, oil, lemon juice, milk and vanilla.
4.Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring just until combined. Fold in the raspberries.
5.Spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups.
6.Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until golden. Let the muffins cool for a few minutes before removing from tin.
* This column of good eating is brought to you by members and friends of the Winona County EDA Local Foods Committee and UM Master Gardeners. Questions or comments? Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org