Monday, March 28, 2011

A Visit to the Winter Park Farmer's Market and Some Roasted Asparagus

My mother used to say, "You know it is spring when the grocery store has fresh asparagus again."  Every time I see asparagus, I can hear her words, whatever time of year it may be.  Nowadays, produce is flown in from all parts of the world and if you look hard enough, you can find whatever produce your heart desires any time of year.  Yes, fresh produce is always accessible in these parts, but local produce that is in season is still the best.

The past few weeks I have been reading, and planning, and reading some more and  planning some more; getting ready to plant my vegetable garden.  I am going to try a technique this year called "square foot gardening".  You'll be getting updates in the months to come.  Anyway, I was getting kind of antsy about wanting to get this project going, but the weather was not quite warm enough.  It's a good thing I had a trip to Florida planned to help take the edge off my need to rush the season.  The weather here has been GORGEOUS!  Long Island got snow this week.  I'm sorry Long Island.  I was in sunny Vero Beach thinking of all of you back home.  I guess I shouldn't mention that it has been 80 something degrees, breezy, and delightful every day since we arrived.  We got back to Winter Park Friday night, so I'd be sure to make it to the Winter Park Farmer's Market on Saturday morning.  How I love this market!
It's sensory overload.  Everything looks, smells, and tastes so good.  I have a tendency to overbuy when I visit this market.  I kept my head this time, but there are some things you just can't pass up.
Fresh picked strawberries for $6.00 a half flat...OMG!  What's not to love?
What's not to love?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Irish Soda Bread NO. 2

Yup, that's the official name of this soda bread.  Sometime back in the 1980's my mother-in-law gave me a cookbook that was a collection of recipes compiled by the parishioners of her church.  The cookbook was sold as a fundraiser for San Antonio de Padua Catholic Church in Anaheim Hills, California.  They titled it "From the The Monk's Kitchen".  It's a sweet little cookbook full of family recipes; some good, some not so good and some are true gems.

My mother made Irish Soda Bread every St. Patty's day.  She is Irish, McLaughlin is her maiden name,  and always cooked up a corned beef and cabbage dinner along with her soda bread to celebrate the day.  When I was in high school, my friends and I would cut school take a day off and go to the parade in the city.  It was always nice to come home to a warm house filled with the smell of soda bread baking after traveling on the train with a bunch of drunken fools.  When my brother and I moved out of the house she continued the tradition, inviting her brothers and sisters to a St. Patty's day celebration.  She did that for a few years and eventually moved to Florida.  I don't think she ever baked another Irish Soda Bread after leaving New York.  I remember asking her for her recipe, but she had misplaced it in the move.  When I visited her in Florida, my mother gave me 5 files boxes of recipes, and a big box of recipes clipped from newspapers and magazines that hadn't made it to her index cards yet.  She told me to take them all home and keep what I want.  Her cooking days were over, and if she was going to cook anything, she had every recipe she wanted in her head.  I took the recipes and sorting through them was a daunting task.  She had so many Irish Soda Bread recipes, but none looked stained and used, like her other favorite recipes.  Could she have gotten it from a cookbook?  I started looking for a recipe in my own cookbooks when I came across this one "From the Monk's Kitchen".

Father Seamus contributed two soda bread recipes to this book.  They are called Irish Soda Bread NO.1 and Irish Soda Bread No.2.  Intriguing titles, huh?  Heck, with a name like Father Seamus, how could I go wrong.  I was immediately drawn to the NO. 2 recipe.  It had raisins, a touch of sugar and optional caraway seeds.  I like soda bread with caraway.  I usually make several loaves of soda bread this time of year, omitting caraway from one or two loaves for those with a caraway aversion.  I had to experiment with this recipe at first.  You see,  since it is a recipe from a church group, they probably didn't do much proof reading.  The recipe fails to say how long to bake it and at what temperature.  It did't take long to get it right and tweak the recipe slightly.  It has become my favorite soda bread.  I would always bring a loaf to my friend's annual St. Patty's Day celebration.  Lorraine would always say, "We have enough soda bread for tonight.  I'm hiding yours for our private stash to have tomorrow!"  The next year I brought 2, one for now, one for later!  The beautiful thing about this recipe is it yields 2 loaves at a time.  Share a loaf with someone you love!