Monday, March 31, 2014

The Hawley Hamlet

Last fall I had the pleasure of visiting The Hawley Hamlet.  The Hawley Hamlet is a group of about 26 neighbors who decided to grow some of their own food.  It was an amazing evening.  I spent most of the evening in awe of the entire process.  There were sweet potatoes, large sweet potatoes.  There was butternut squash growing on tomato cages.  Hope for those with less space for gardening.  There was kale, strawberries, and of course, tomatoes.  You name it they seem to be growing it.

The 'instigator' of the project, Tim Rinne, has a goal to have at least one food from the garden on his plate 365 days per year.  Yes, I was amazed by all the food these neighbors are growing.  But what blew my mind away was level of community engagement.  One person started it, but others embraced the idea.  Even city government loves this project.  I just imagine all these people getting to know each other.  Imagine, a neighborhood where people talk to each other - face-to-face.  Reminds me of Mayberry and a simpler time.

If you want to know more about Tim Rinne and The Hawley Hamlet, check out the April edition of Mother Earth News.  If you want to start a garden, check with your local county extension office.  They will usually have a master gardener's program.  Local nurseries are also good sources of information.  After all, they want to sell gardening supplies.  If you are a little intimidated by the idea of gardening, start small.  Container and herb gardening are great ways to get started with gardening.

It's almost spring - I'm talking temperature, not the calendar.  I thought a recipe of asparagus, lettuce and lemon would be a good way to start off the gardening year.  To Hawley Hamlet, thanks for showing the rest of us the way.  I hope your project spreads all over the city. And Happy Gardening!

Roasted Asparagus and Spring Greens
with Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette

Serves 6.


3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
½ cup shallots, finely minced
¼ cup lemon juice, preferably fresh
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
6 cups baby spring greens
6 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


1.  Preheat oven to 400°F.
2.  Place asparagus on a large-rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.  Drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil.  Roast until crisp-tender, about 10 - 12 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
3.  Dressing. In a small bowl, whisk shallots, lemon juice, mustard, pepper, salt and remaining two tablespoons of olive oil until thoroughly blended.
4.  Toss greens with about one-half of dressing.  Place greens on a serving platter.  Top with asparagus spears.  Top asparagus with more dressing and cheese.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Time Brings About a Change

Back home, the old folks had a saying, "Time brings about a change".  I often think about that statement when I think about food, especially the food I grew up with.  We had greens with fat back.  Yes, fat back, no salt pork in my house.  Fried chicken was a common Sunday meal.  These are the foods I grew with and they are near and dear to my heart.

No I am a little older (okay, a lot older) and starting to think about my diet a little differently.  I still like the same foods.  That will not change.  One of my students told me that her father made collard greens in the Italian style.  I was horrified.  I had a collard green throw down with one of my students one day - Asian vs. southern US.  Of course, there was no winner.  I have to say that I finally got to see one of my favorite foods prepared in a different manner - and I liked Asian collard greens.  Sometimes you just gotta change.

Another food that I ate growing up was sweet potatoes.  We baked them and added butter.  We also candied them, butter and sugar - lots of sugar. We never added salt, pepper and garlic powder.  But like I said, sometimes you gotta change.  So here is a new recipe for sweet potatoes.  They are savory and not sweet.  And they are good!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Onions

Serves 6.


4 medium sweet potatoes, about 2 pounds
1 medium yellow onion
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt


1.  Preheat oven to 425°F.

2.  Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 2-inch cubes.  Cut onion into 1-inch pieces.

3. Place sweet potatoes and onions in a large bowl.  Add olive oil and seasonings.  Stir to combine. 

4.  Spread mixture onto a rimmed cookie sheet.  Bake at 425°F for about 35 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

If possible, roast vegetables in a metal pan.  Metal is a better conductor of heat than glass.  However, don't let the lack of a metal pan prevent you from making this recipe.  It will still be good, just not as crispy.