By Dotti Hydue
WELCOME to the LevyCounty Kitchen. The month of May is upon us, when our weather starts to seriously heat up and our gardens explode with bountiful harvests. May is also the month for mothers.
Those of you who read this column on a regular basis know I finally finished a family cookbook in honor of my mom. Copies went to family members and several close friends. How heartwarming to receive this thoughtful note from a dear friend who lived just down the street from me—we walked to school together every day for 12 years! Her mom, Betty, was my second mother and I am considered the fifth sister in their family of two boys and four girls.
“I loved seeing (photos of) your mom and realizing what an influence all those wonderful women had and have on us. Aren’t we lucky to have had such love that continues to be with us.”
Some mothers are mothers in name only, others are the epitome of all the traits that title denotes. One thing all mothers are is mortal. Once they are gone, they are gone for good. So now is the time to tell your mother how much you appreciate her. Bury the hatchet, make amends, stop playing the blame game. Mothers are, after all, human beings just like us, complete with faults and weaknesses. So thank her for her sacrifices over the years when she put aside her life in order to give you life and nurture your ambitions. Go on, give your mother a big hug and then spend Mother’s Day doting on her like the special person she is. What is her favorite food? Cook it for her. What’s her favorite place? Take her there. Sit on the porch and rock a while. You get the idea—pamper, pamper, pamper. Yes, you can brave the crowds and take her out for brunch or dinner, but why not make your time together more intimate by creating a meal and more memories to cherish.
The following recipe makes use of a nutritious fruit that easily grows in LevyCounty and along the NatureCoast. Use this sauce to top French toast, pancakes or waffles, or as a filling for crepes. Leftovers are great on ice cream, cheesecake, and even plain cake. You can use whatever fresh or frozen fruit you have on-hand instead of blueberries. To enhance the flavor of different fruits, replace the cinnamon in the following recipe with a little orange zest or orange marmalade when using strawberries, lime juice with blackberries, and a drop or two of almond extract with cherries or peaches. Use 3/4 to 1 cup of water (or fruit juice) depending on how juicy the fruit is and how thin or thick you want the finished sauce.
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 to 1 cup water
1 cup blueberries
1 tsp lemon juice
Thoroughly mix sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Stir in the water, berries and lemon juice. Stir and cook over medium-low heat until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer another minute or two until sauce thickens and is transparent.
I’M OUT IN MY GARDEN every morning with basket and clippers, harvesting fresh vegetables and herbs. A medley of colorful summer squash, baby bok choi, scallions, and lettuces fill the basket. Baby summer squash cook in a flash on the grill or in a mixed stir-fry seasoned with garlic, grated ginger root and soy sauce. Larger squash are excellent in this classic casserole.
Summer Squash Casserole
3 yellow squash, cut into pieces
3 zucchini, cut into pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb. bacon, cooked crisp, drained and crumbled
2 cups grated cheddar cheese, sharp or medium
1/2 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 large eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish. Cook squashes and onion until just tender in water to cover; drain well and mash vegetables; set aside. Mix half the bacon, 1 cup cheese, all the crackers, milk, butter and eggs in large bowl. Add squash mixture. Mix well. Place in baking dish and top with remaining crumbled bacon and cheese. Do not cover. Bake 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown.
I’VE MADE MY first batch of pesto, that pungent paste traditionally made from fresh basil, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and pine nuts. I usually don’t use any garlic because I freeze my pesto and the garlic flavor can be overpowering once defrosted. Pine nuts are a little too pricey right now, so I might throw in a few walnuts or raw sunflower seeds instead. Once processed, I drop the paste by spoonfuls onto wax paper-lined baking sheets and pop it in the freezer. When frozen, I roll up the paper and place it in a freezer bag until I need some pesto to top pasta or flavor vegetables or minestrone-style soups.
I’m still harvesting juicy strawberries from my patch, but alas there is not one blueberry on my bushes. Look for recipes using blueberries in a luscious coffee cake and a double-good pie, plus resources for growing your own blueberries in the premier in-print edition of Levy Living. This free, full-color print edition will be available at Levy Living’s booth at the Chiefland Watermelon Festival on June 1st, as well as at local businesses throughout LevyCounty and along the NatureCoast.
Until next time, the kitchen is closed.