My grandmother's biscuits


Two things I loved when I visited my two very different grandmothers as a child: buttermilk biscuits and the kind that came flying out of the cardboard tube when you hit it the right way on the counter.  Both grandmothers grew up in rural North Florida. One carried on the make-it-from-scratch tradition of her foremothers. The other was an early adopter of modern canned and frozen food. This grandmother had a closet that would rival a doomsday prepper's, full of everything from canned spaghetti to twenty-year-old salad dressing (she didn't always rotate).  She was the daughter of tenant farmers. Her father had hunting dogs, and her mother kept chickens. Food took days and a lot of work to the get to the table. She had about had it with the labor of it all by the time she had kids of her own - around the same time factory-canned food and refrigeration made their way to the middle-class. 

The scratch-cooking grandma trended modern in other ways; she worked full-time as an accountant when most mothers at the time didn't.  But she also valued traditional the skills she had been taught as a girl - crocheting doilies way beyond their fashionable era, scrambling my grandfather's eggs before heading off to work each morning, triple-rinsing massive amounts of collards to cook in a large pot all day, and making wonderful cornbread and biscuits, at least when her son and grandchildren were visiting. 

While I was closer to the biscuits-in-a-can grandmother, I have prided myself in cooking more like the scratch cooking, crafty one. I love the tools of the trade - pastry cutters, whisks, and elbow grease - and have used them extensively over many years of cooking for family, friends, and larger gatherings. But, as a grandmother myself now, I have grown more flexible - or maybe just tired. Anyway, my grandmother's biscuits came out fine (and took a lot less time!) with a food processor. But have it your way, just like Leta and Zona did. 

Buttermilk Biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp butter, cut in little pieces (my grandmother's recipe calls for "Crisco" (shortening), which I don't use. I bet my great-grandmother used lard)
  • 3/4-1 cup buttermilk (yogurt actually works in a pinch)
  • A little more flour to roll dough out on. 

The old way: Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut butter into little pieces and, using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut into flour until dough resembles small peas.  Stir in buttermilk, a little at a time, just till dough holds together.  Roll out on "floured board" (kitchen counter) till a little less than an inch thick. But with a biscuit cutter (round cookie cutter or glass that's been dipped in flour). Place on greased cookie sheet and bake 7-10 minutes till bottoms are brown and the rest is golden. 

New way: Put dry ingredients into food processor and give it a quick pulse. Add butter and pulse 2 or 3 times till dough looks like sand (it is too quick for me to stop at pea-size). Add buttermilk (I used just a little over 3/4 cup) and give it another quick pulse. Out it goes onto the "floured board," and the rest is the same. 

These taste best straight from the oven, second-best halved and toasted. If you really want to go Southern, drizzle with cane syrup. 

Nanny's biscuit tools


Tofu Croutons Seriously Taste Like Chicken

October salad

I trust Mark Bittman's cookbooks like my grandmother trusted Better Homes and Gardens. I stumbled across his How to Cook Everything at a used book sale years ago, and I have since acquired How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6

Having been a vegetarian (mostly) for decades, I thought I  had tried everything with tofu - from pressing, marinating and baking to blending into smoothies and desserts. But Bittman's recipe for "tofu croutons" (HtCEV) amazed me. It's so simple, requiring just five minutes preparation followed by an hour of passive baking.  It's versatile - a good pop of protein in salads, soup, or noodles, or by themselves as a snack.  And even my omnivore husband thinks these taste like chicken.

This simple salad had some great ingredients: tender lettuce, crunchy cukes, and sweet cherry tomatoes from our CSA from the Family Garden Farm.  The sprinkle of savory pecans and that handful of warm tofu croutons made it a truly satisfying meal. 

The croutons:

  • One package extra firm tofu
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • A sprinkle of salt. 

Cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and pat dry. Toss with olive oil and and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, turning once halfway through baking. 

The savory pecans:

  • 2 T melted butter
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • a very light sprinkle of Worcestershire sauce if you have it

Place on parchment covered baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. Cool before storing. 

Salad corner october

Fathers and Children

  Breakfast [640x480]
"Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later. . . that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps, love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child could have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life." 

- Tom Wolfe

[photo: Steve (my dad and protector), b. January 1935 waitin' for breakast with his great-grandson, Riley, b. June 2005]

Late Spring CSA Lunch

Potatoes and onions

Leafy greens gave way to potatoes,tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and squash this week. I roasted the potatoes with some of the onions and a little garlic, made a salad from foreign (California) lettuce, cool Kirby cucumbers and some early mangoes from South Florida. It was light and refreshing - a celebration of the last of spring. Soon it will be peppers and okra and eggplant - and more eggplant. 

Roasting potatoes:

Turn on the exhaust fan to help with the heat in the kitchen and preheat oven to 400. Chop potatoes and onions and peel garlic clove. Line baking sheet with olive oil and throw on the veggies. Sprinkle with rosemary and/or thyme. Cook for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are a little crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.  

Potatoes and onions oven ready sm

Potatoes cooked sm

Salad: Romaine lettuce, chopped mango, cucumber and this light dressing. 

Cooling salad sm

Bright red side dish of tomatoes: Just slice a fresh, homegrown, room-temperature  tomato and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spice up a little with chopped chives, slivered basil leaves, or slivered mint.  Every summer meal I remember at my grandparents house included fresh, sliced tomatoes. Every adult seemed to ooh and ahh over them. Their slightly salted juice would flow into leftover rice with black-eyed peas, or soak into cornbread. They were a wonder.

Those fresh, seasonal meals were a wonder that brightened my childhood and inspire me as an adult. I caught that wonder from my parents and grandparents and hope my children and grandchildren might catch some of it from me. 

Tomatoes 2 sm

Beets Balsamico and Romanesco à l'Orange

Romanesco and orange sm

This is THE time of year for fresh produce in North Central Florida. My CSA with The Family Garden farm provided me with 8 different fruits and vegetables this week - from earthy beets to fanciful romanesco. And I finally have the time and wherewithal to share a few recipes. 

First you can find Beets Balsamico here - at our local Farm to School website. Beets prepared this way are beautitful, delicious and super-simple. I especially appreciate the technique of steaming them before cooling and peeling them. The delicious sauce enhanced the flavor and the color - although this week I had yellow beets in my share, and they work as well as the red. 

But I also want to give you this nice recipe for romanesco. I had four of these in my refrigerator this week! It's still citrus season here, so I used a tart honey tangerine and one of the mild, sweet onions that are coming into season to make a simple sauce for the lightly steamed, fancy cauliflower cousin. Here's the recipe:

Romanesco a l'Orange

One head of romanesco (or cauliflower or broccoli), very lightly steamed
1/8 cup minced sweet onion
1/8 cup white wine or rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup fresh parsley
one tart orange, thinly sliced then cut into small triangular sections
1/4 cup olive oil

Mince onion and and mix with vinegar and salt. Allow to sit for 15 minutes to absorb vinegar and soften. Add parsley, Orange, and olive oil Let sit for at least 30 minutes. Pour over steamed romanesco and serve. 

Romanesco a la orange sm


A share of the Family Garden

2.21.15this week's share

I bought a CSA (community supported agriculture) share again this year from the Family Garden, an organic farm in Gilchrist county. CSAs create a partnership between the farmer and the consumer. Members pay up front for 32 weeks of produce - usually between 6 and 10 items. This arrangement is meant to benefit both parties; members share the risk inherent in farming and provide money up front to help with the labor, supplies and equipment needed at that stage. In exchange they also share in the harvest, be it a  bumper crop - or not.  It averages out to $23/week.

It has definitely been a good deal for me so far - and challenged me some too (I probably would not have purchased a rutabaga otherwise). The extra benefit I get from buying from the Family Garden is that it is certified under the Agricultural Justice Project, which means farm workers receive a fair wage and benefits. This is a very good bang for the buck. I am looking forward to another week of this healthy food, grown in a manner that honors the land and the people who work it. 

This week, I'll post a few recipes for this gorgeous stuff - including Beets Balsamico (developed by one of our Farm to School staff), and something to do with that rutabaga. 

Do not fear the persimmon

Persimmon scones

We grow a lot of persimmons in the southeast, but some people are afraid of them. This came home to me earlier in the month when I picked 250 pounds of persimmons with a group of high school students to be served as snacks to local elementary school children. The kids loved them - despite the looks on the faces of many of their teachers and cafeteria staff. 


The problem is that some varieties of persimmon are extremely astringent until they are very ripe. These varieties - Hachiya and Saijo are two common examples - must be soft enough to eat with a spoon in order to lose their mouth-puckering quality. On the other hand, the Fuyu, the most prevalent of the non-astringent type, is sweet and tasty while it is as hard as a store-bought tomato. The challenge is that they are difficult to tell apart. I used to think the non-astringent ones were shaped like tomatoes; not true.  

So I ask before I buy and have always stuck with the delicious Fuyu variety, great for snacks out of hand, and cut up into green salads. But this year, I broke down and tried the astringent types. Do it! They are delicous in their own way. They are still available at the farmers markets and u-picks nearby. Purée from these very soft persimmons can be frozen and used all year in breads, pies, and yogurt parfaits. I made some delicious scones yesterday from mine. 

Persimmon Scones 

2 cups all purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
5 tablespoons of butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup astringent-type persimmon pulp, squeezed from the peel

In one bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Grate the butter and cut into flour fixture with a pastry cutter or by rubbing between your fingers until the butter is well-distributed. In a second bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and persimmon pulp. You will notice solid pieces of persimmon mixed in with the liquid pulp; this is good. When well blended, add to flour mixture and stir quickly with a fork or wooden spoon until just mixed. Add a little bit of flour if necessary. Turn onto floured surface and gently shape into a 6-8" disc. Cut into eighths and place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. 

This recipe was adapted from this one at Theirs used the non-astringent variety, chopped. I also substituted buttermilk for the cream (always a good idea). The scones were tender and biscuit-like, and the slivers of persimmon added a wonderful taste, texture, and color. 

Enjoy with tea and friends. 

Pajama Sunday and French Toast

French toast 2 sm

Sometimes fate conspires to give you a free Sunday - or you work your butt off all week trying to make it so. Either way, French Toast is a good way to begin. It is so festive and delicious for the amount of preparation and clean-up it requires. 

It's too simple for a recipe. Dip one piece of bread into one egg scrambled and place it in a skillet or on a griddle sizzling with melted butter. Turn. Eat. Multiply recipe as needed. If you make too many, put them in the fridge or freezer and toast them for future breakfasts. Any bread will do; in fact it's a great way to make use of stale bread. BUT, if you happen to live in Gainesville and have access to Vine Bread and Pasta's Country Loaf, you are so lucky. Like I am this Sunday. 

Fourteen hours left of Pajama Sunday...

Sunday morning sm

This is what life does

Mango pie  Mango and Lime Pie thanks to Mango Mike; recipe thanks to Good Housekeeping

This is what life does. It lets you walk up to 
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a 
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have 
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman 
down beside you at the counter who say, Last night, 
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?

Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological 
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old 
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it 
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.

And then life suggests that you remember the 
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.

Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won’t give you smart or brave,
so you’ll have to settle for lucky.) Because you 
were born at a good time. Because you were able 
to listen when people spoke to you. Because you
stopped when you should have and started again.

So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And 
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland, 
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel, 
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.

-Eleanor Lerman

Summer Squash Stew

Summer squash stew sm
Squash! They're driving us out of our gourd! This week we'll be serving two new squash dishes, hoping to use up what we have before the next wave hits.  Yellow Squash Stew for Wednesday's Café and Squash and Goat Cheese Tart for Friday's breakfast. 

The Summer Squash Stew recipe is below. It was great to be able to include other gifts of the season - like the lovely herbs we were given at the market, the basket of tomatoes which all hit their prime at once, and even a touch of the last of the season's citrus. Rather than cook the squash (to oblivion) in the soup, I sautéed it separately, then added right before the soup was cooked. It's good!

Summer Squash Stew

a large, sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil 
4 cups roasted tomato pulp and juice - or one 24 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 cup red lentils
minced peel of 1/2 orange
juice of whole orange
2-3 yellow squash chopped into 1-inch pieces
lemon pepper
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (or one 24 oz. can).

If using fresh tomatoes, roast whole tomatoes on oiled baking sheet at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until shriveled. Cool and remove peels. Meanwhile, sautée onion and garlic in olive oil till onion is transparent. Add tomatoes (canned or roasted fresh pulp), and 1 cup of uncooked red lentils, minced orange peel, and orange juice. Add 5 cups water and bring to a boil. When it begins to boil, turn down to low and simmer until lentils are cooked - 20-30 minutes, adding water if necessary. While lentils are cooking, sautée the squash in a separate skillet, with a little olive oil. When it begins to become tender, sprinkle with lemon pepper. Add a splash of water and cover for a few minutes so that it becomes tender but not at all soggy. 

After lentils are tender, add garbanzo beans and gently spoon in squash. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle with chopped,fresh dill and parsley. We offered the addition of mild, pickled banana peppers as a topping. Enjoy!