Agrodolce and Garden Lettuce

Agrodolce is a traditional sweet and sour sauce used in Italian cooking very similar to a gastrique. Its name comes from “agro” (sour) and “dolce” (sweet).

(Many also say this describes my personality, but I’m pretty sure I’m more dolce and less agro. It depends on the day, I guess. For example, if my car has a flat tire, I am QUITE agro, especially toward the tire expressed as bad words and kicking, both of which, in case you wanted to know, are ineffective at problem solving. On the other hand, anyone stepping in to FIX the tire will experience my dolce side with sincere hopes he/she did not witness any of my agro. That would be embarrassing.)

A quick scan of the internet reveals agrodolce is made as many different ways as there are cooks, which is A LOT. Generally, it is made by reducing vinegar and sugar. Sometimes, wine, fruit, or chocolate are added to the mix. Most often it is used for fish or lamb but is also served over pasta and with many different vegetables.

Last week friends joined us at Wyebrook Farm, a farm-to-table restaurant and market located in Honey Brook, Pennsylvania. It is not to be missed if you live in this area! Everything on the menu is local and fresh, and it changes with the seasons. We sat outside on the most beautiful spring evening you ever want to see. Lovely! I had a green salad served atop–you guessed it–agrodolce.

This is my attempt to mimic the service at Wyebrook Farm.

First a smear of agrodolce…

IMG_0075 Then, topped with a dressed green salad…IMG_0089

Red Pepper Agrodolce

(from Martha Stewart)

Serves 6

Ingredients:

Two large red bell peppers
One tablespoon olive oil
One-quarter cup raisins
One-quarter cup port wine
One tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
One tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Rub bell peppers with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and transfer to oven; roast until peppers are blistering, about 15 minutes. Using tongs, transfer peppers to a large bowl and immediately cover with plastic wrap; let cool.

3. Using your fingers or a paper towel, rub skins to remove; discard skins. Stem and seed peppers and coarsely chop. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

4. Place raisins, port, and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan; place over medium heat and cook gently until plump, about 5 minutes.

5. Transfer raisins and liquid to bowl with peppers, along with parsley and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Agrodolce can be made up to two days in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Note: Martha’s recipe stopped at that. I, however, placed my sauce in a small pot over medium-high heat and reduced it until it was a paste consistency. Try this recipe using cooked beets instead of roasted peppers. (And let me know how it is, because I haven’t tried it yet:))

I served my agrodolce alongside a green salad with lettuce from my garden. The leaves were so tender, and I dressed them with a low-fat salad dressing:

One-half cup balsamic vinegar
One tablespoon olive oil
One tablespoon nutritional yeast
One tablespoon soy sauce
One tablespoon maple syrup
One-half tablespoon dijon mustard
One-quarter teaspoon xanthan gum

However, you may serve agrodolce with almost anything you want.

Sweet and sour. A classic combination!

Thai Rice Noodle Salad

In cooking, it pays to be versatile!

Like a tartan kilt.

You: What do you mean, like a tartan kilt?
Me: You know. It’s versatile. It goes with everything!
You: Like WHAT?
Me: Like your floral blouse.
You: It doesn’t. It doesn’t go with my floral blouse.
Me: Well then what in the world do you wear your floral blouse with?
You: I don’t HAVE a floral blouse.
Me: Well then why DO YOU EVEN HAVE A TARTAN KILT?
You: Are you high?

Well, I’m glad you asked that. FINALLY. Because, although I’m not exactly high, I AM operating through a sort of Benadryl-laced Zyrtek fog due to the high spring pollen count around here. I’m allergic to it, and I’m medicated. If you just bear with me, I am going to write a recipe–I think–about another use for spinach.

Which is versatile.

I’m pretty sure that’s the point I was trying to make.

Spinach is versatile.

And while I normally use fresh peas, snap peas or string beans for this following recipe, spinach works in a pinch!

Here it is, my beautiful spinach:

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West African Spinach With Spicy Peanut Sauce: Easy Vegan Dinner

When I was growing up in the suburbs, I thought spinach was a dark green frozen block of bitterness I didn’t even want to HEAR about at dinnertime, let alone eat it. I didn’t know that frozen block had its origins on the farm or in the garden. I was too busy running around in my Keds and jumping on my pogo stick.

I’m just kidding!

(I could never do the pogo stick.)

If you asked a mom from the seventies “What’s for dinner?” too many times she took to revenge, and frozen spinach was a cheap and easy weapon. “Listen, if you ask me that one more time,” she might say, “the answer is spinach for two weeks straight.” If I learned spinach was for dinner early enough in the day, I’d quickly make plans to eat at a friend’s house,¬†where, unfortunately, there was a good possibility I’d also be having spinach.

(Mass produced freezer food was just becoming a huge industry, and all the moms were onto it. There were a lot of soap operas to watch back then and only so much time in one day. Convenience was king.)

Today is different! I have real spinach from the farm! And here is a quick, delicious recipe that requires only a few ingredients (from VegKitchen.)

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Spring Dinner: Carrot Soup and Kale Salad

With my CSA delivery this week I made dinner:

Spicy Peanut Ginger Kale Salad

(Serves 2-4)

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It really is true: fresh, local produce has the most delicious flavor. We really can’t compare it to anything sold in the grocery store. This kale salad is, as I’ve written before, from Healthy Happy Life. I can’t get enough of it.

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Find A Local CSA

One of the best ways to incorporate more vegetables into your diet is to sign up for a local CSA, also known as Community Supported Agriculture. Depending on your community, you may choose from a variety of farms in which to invest. Prior to a season–generally spring, summer or fall–you buy a “share” (or half share) of produce from a local farm, and they deliver in-season produce weekly. The upside for the farm is that it receives a steady income regardless of growing conditions and output. For you, it means a steady stream of vegetables every week. You must eat them!

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Growing Uncertainty

I enjoy gardening.

(When it’s nice out. And when there are no bugs. And, no weeds.)

I don’t know much about gardening, but I do know there is great reward in not knowing what you are doing while also forging ahead and doing it anyway.

Like parenting.

Here was the extent of my parenting knowledge the night my husband and I decided to have kids:

  • I figured people have been doing it for generations.
  • I was aware other people in my social circle were doing it.
  • I may have had a little too much wine.

On the gardening front, I decided to add a raised garden to my bed this season. I’ll see how it goes and maybe next year I’ll add more. Here’s my garden pre-construction:

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