Last summer, I took a trip back to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia for my high school class reunion. In addition to visiting with classmates whom I hadn’t seen in years, I made time to stop at the town’s farmers market. It is interesting that the farm vegetables which are ripe in Virginia are several months behind the ones that are ripe locally in Louisiana. Carrots, potatoes, beets and early English peas filled the stands in the market in Virginia in June. Of course, I brought back some of these vegetables. Although it is now winter again, some of these vegetables –such as carrots — are easily available all year around.
Do cucumbers grow in a Louisiana garden? The answer is emphatically, “yes.” It is the one vegetable which is sure to flourish. This year I planted cucumbers seedlings about 6 weeks behind schedule, then went out of town when they were ripening. The plants produced enough cucumbers for us to enjoy a nice batch with several over-sized cucumbers to pick. My favorite way to serve cucumbers is marinated in vinegar and oil; this time I added an oriental twist. Continue reading
Looking for a healthy and different way to serve vegetables at a buffet over the holidays? This recipe for Zesty Marinated Vegetables is quite unique. It consists of nutritious and colorful vegetables — carrots, bell peppers, cauliflower and turnips — that are marinated in a curry, sweet and sour dressing. You might not think of combining these vegetables — much less serving them at a holiday meal — but that’s part of the appeal. Served cold as an appetizer, they are quite tasty.
Let’s cook something new. Winter squash are in season in grocery stores; my favorite is acorn squash. The squash has a mild, almost sweet flavor with the texture like a pumpkin. It’s easy to cook–just add margarine, salt and pepper. Or for something more fancy add a stuffing; both ways are delicious. A local grocery store featured winter squash in a large bin; I had to purchase several and that sent me scrambling to my recipe file to locate a favorite recipe.
Here’s a way to include vegetables in meals. This marinated bean salad recipe is from a vintage cookbook. It is delicious; we can’t stop eating it. The idea of making this classic salad began when I opened the CSA (Community Supported Agricultural) box I’d just purchased. On the top were wax beans and green beans.
Weekly Mystery Box
I enrolled in my employeer’s CSA program. Every Monday I pick up a box filled with fresh vegetables and produce from a local farmer. It’s a mystery basket–you don’t know what is included each week. It’s fun to figure out recipes to make with the vegetables (before they spoil). Sort of like pretending to be a contestant on a television chef cooking show like “Chopped” but without the pressure. Here’s a box from last fall.
Marinated Three Bean Salad
This week’s box included fresh green beans, waxed beans and an onion. I immediately thought of the classic Three Bean Salad. This salad usually contains one can each of wax beans, green beans and red kidney beans. It also includes onions, bell pepper and everything is marinated in a sweet and sour vinegarette. Why not use the fresh beans which I will blanched to tender crispness? The fresh beans will make even more flavor and nutrition.
Vintage Cookbook: “Our Swiss Pantry” – from Berne, Indiana
I searched through several cookbooks to find a recipe and hit the jackpot in one vintage cookbook, “Our Swiss Pantry.” It was compiled by the women’s group of the First Mennonite Church in Berne, Indiana, to support their missionary work. This is a cookbook where the church women contributed their recipes — these complications are often the best sources for recipes because everyone turns in their favorite recipes. And these recipes are old ones, from Swiss settlers, they go back a long time.
Berne, Indiana: Mennonite and Amish Settlements
Berne, Indiana, was named after Berne, Switzerland. A group of Swiss Mennonites heard of the lush farmland of Indiana and settled there in the mid 1800’s. Their settlement thrived and now boasts one of the largest Mennonite congregations in the country in that branch of Mennonites. There are different fractions of this religious group and the Berne congregation is a progressive one adopting modern dress, transportation and ideas. They retain their protestant values, their work ethic, sincerity, honesty.
Amish from Alsace-Lorraine and Switzerland also settled in the area. They have maintained their old world methods, dress, horse and buggys and language which is a German-Swiss dialect and different from other Amish groups. These Amish retain their very closed community. Traveling back to Berne, Indiana, is like stepping back into time when you pass an Amish farm house.
How did I get a cookbook from Berne, Indiana?
The cookbook dates back to my college years when I went to school in Indiana. My roommate was from Berne, Indiana, and I’d go there on holidays and weekends. Undoubtedly, I got the cookbook on one of these visits in the early 1970’s.
I asked a friend here in Baton Rouge who grew up in Berne if she was related to the recipe author as they have the same last name, “Sprunger.” Just a distant relative, but my friend had the cookbook on her shelf, too, for all those years. She remembers when the church ladies were putting the book together! Never throw a good cookbook away!
What Is Community Supported Agriculture?
Community Supported Agriculture is a program designed to support local farmers and agriculture. It varies from community to community. In our community, a local farmer — Luckett farms — has partnered with my employer — Baton Rouge General Medical Center — to provide the program. In the spring you pay a fee which the farmer uses to purchase seed and other supplies to raise and harvest his vegetable crop.
Then each week the farmer brings his harvest in a box to the employer where you pick it up and enjoy the foods in the box each week for eight weeks. The foods in the box vary from week to week depending on what is ready for harvest. This week we were treated to yellow and zucchini squash, carrots, potatoes, cucumbers, green and wax beans, a cantalope, basil and lettuce, beets. It’s alot of food for two people, so I’m splitting my box with another employee.
The recipe has a slight twist
This recipe has a slight twist. In addition to the usual green, waxed beans and red kidney beans, it also contains garbanzo beans. Great! A little more crunch, fiber and nutrition. I added a jalapeno pepper and pimento for flavor and color. The recipe also includes onions and bell peppers. I blanched the green and wax beans in a microwave in a little water. They could also be steamed until tender crisp. The cans of red kidney beans and garbanzo beans just need to be rinsed off under running water.
Sweet and Sour Marinade
The dressing is a sweet and sour vinaigrette. I used unfiltered apple cider vinegar which really adds to the flavor. The sugar and vinegar are boiled to dissolve the sugar. Then the salt and oil are added. These are added to the vegetables and everything is chilled. Delicious! Here are the dressing marinade ingredients.
This makes a large recipe: 1/2 gallon. Nevertheless, we managed to eat it all!
Bean Salad adapted from Eileen Sprunger in Our Swiss Pantry, p.99
- 1 (16 oz) can green beans (or 8 oz fresh green beans – 2 cups snapped or cut into pieces)
- 1 (16 oz) can wax beans (or 8 oz fresh wax beans – 2 cups snapped or cut into pieces)
- 1 (16 oz) can kidney beans
- 1 (16 oz) can garbanzo beans
- 2 small white or yellow onions, peeled and chopped
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, finely diced
- 1/4 cup canned diced pimento pepper, drained
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup cooking oil
- 1 tsp salt
Method and Steps
- Drain and rinse all cans of beans. Set aside. If using fresh green and wax beans, wash and drain the beans, cut off the ends and “snap” or cut into 1″ lengths. Place green beans in microwavable bowl and add 1/2 cup water. Cover loosely with wax or parchment paper. Blanch for about 6 to 8 minutes until tender crisp. Repeat with wax beans. Alternately, place both the beans in a small pot, add 1/2 cup water and bring to boil on stove. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until tender crisp. Drain the beans, add ice to chill. Set aside.
- In another small pot, add sugar and apple cider vinegar. Stirring frequently, bring to boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat as soon as sugar dissolves. Cool.
- Add oil and salt to cooled sugar/vinegar and stir to combine.
- Drain all beans, add green and wax beans, drained kidney beans and garbanzo beans to large bowl. Add chopped onion, diced bell pepper, minced jalapeno and drained pimento. Stir to combine.
- Pour dressing over beans salad and stir to combine.
- Cover and refrigerate.
Every year I make some healthy New Year’s resolutions: such as eat more vegetables. I got off to a good start when my mother-in-law came to visit. She raved about a Brussels sprouts recipe–the best she’d ever eaten–and bought me two pounds fresh Brussels sprouts at Cosco’s to make the point.
What is Swiss chard? It’s a delectable leafy green vegetable, not nearly as common as spinach or mustard greens, for example. It is very tender with a mild flavor. My mother planted it in her garden when we were growing up and it was the only “greens” vegetable that I liked. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it grows in Louisiana gardens. You should give Swiss chard a try, if you have never tasted it.