Photos by Zachary Cross
We were discussing my husband Jeffrey’s birthday a few weeks ago and talking about how to celebrate. Green tomato cake has been a favorite in the past so we asked him if he wanted that. He replied, “how about a cucumber cake?” I think he was mostly joking, but I looked it up and found several recipes.
Vegetable-based desserts are nothing new. It seems odd at first, but most vegetable desserts use a fruit that we eat as vegetables, such as in zucchini bread. Others use roots or leaves - carrot cake is possibly the most common and popular, while sneaking spinach into brownies is a relatively new and possibly less appealing idea. On the market blog there are recipes for Swiss Chard Tart, Squash Bars, Pumpkin Bars, and our family favorite, Green Tomato Cake.
Cucumbers are another fruit that we usually eat as a vegetable. They’re in the Cucurbitaceae family with squash and pumpkins, so why not put them in cake? Appropriately the recipe I ended up using is from Veggie Desserts, a site full of vegetable dessert and other veggie recipes. There’s a cookbook now, too, Veggie Desserts + Cakes.
The recipe is pretty simple, simpler than other veggie cakes I’ve made. No sugaring or salting the veggie to drain excess water. I was surprised since cucumbers are so watery but the final cake was not wet at all. Lemon juice and zest complement cucumber’s light flavor. We did not have the elderflower cordial for the icing so used the recommended substitute, lemon juice. If you want to try the elderflower flavor in the icing, Wildflower Tea Shop & Apothecary has dried elderflowers you can use to make the cordial. There’s a version of the cucumber cake on Veggie Desserts with a gin icing as well.
Since I have a wheat allergy our older daughter volunteered to make the birthday cake as written. She found the cucumber hard to blend completely but ended up liking the green flecks and texture. She also decorated it with icing made with natural colors.
The cake was well received so I decided to make a grain-free version and try it out. The cucumber is a subtle flavor but is definitely present. I found the cucumber hard to blend as well and eventually added the eggs to the blender to give it more liquid to blend with. It worked! I like the contrast of the light green color and the white frosting. I used lemon as the flavor in my frosting as well and added some zest for more flavor. Unfortunately, I mixed up the two cake recipes and added too much butter. That’s one reason my cake is thinner. I made two layers as well - more room for icing!
I’m inspired now to try more vegetables in desserts and in other new ways, too.
From Veggie Desserts
200g cucumber (about half a cucumber) Zest and juice of half a lemon
115g (1/2 cup) butter, softened
150g (3/4) granulated sugar
11⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract
150g (11⁄8 cups) self raising flour
For the Elderflower Icing:
75g (1/3 cup) butter, softened
150g (11⁄8 cups) powdered icing sugar
1 tablespoon elderflower cordial (or lemon juice if elderflower isn't available)
1. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F. Lightly grease 2 x 7in sandwich tins or a 9 inch round cake tin.
2. Leave the skin on the cucumber and deseed it by cutting it in half lengthways and scraping the seeds out with a teaspoon. Cut into chunks and puree until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice.
3. Cream the butter, lemon zest, sugar and vanilla together for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each one in well.
5. Stir in 1⁄3 of the flour, then add 1⁄3 of the cucumber and continue until it is all combined.
6. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes. Allow to cool slightly in the tin and turn out on a wire rack to cool completely before icing.
For the Elderflower Icing:
1. Beat the butter, icing sugar and cordial together until smooth and fluffy. Keep in the fridge until ready to ice the cake.
This week's post comes from my neighbor, Ali Whittier. Ali is a St. Elmo resident and local competitive cyclist for Scenic City Velo and Privateer Cyclocross. A native of Iowa, she has a decade of experience in health promotion and community engagement, as well as health care communications.
Connect with Ali on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn. Follow the Whittiers' cycling adventures at www.withthewhittiers.com.
I don’t remember eating sweet potatoes as a child. I grew up in Iowa which doesn’t have ideal climate for this heat-loving crop. It wasn’t until I moved to the south as an adult that I had my first taste – sweet potato casserole, of course.
I soon realized casseroles and pies weren’t the only ways to use sweet potatoes. And they have some nutritional benefits, too.
My husband and I are competitive cyclists, and we’ve been slowly refining our eating habits to include little to no processed foods. But we both work full-time in addition to training on the bike 5-6 days a week, so many nights we have little time to get a healthy dinner together.
After a little experimentation, we found a simple, quick way to prepare sweet potatoes that can be easily paired with a number of meals – or even as a dessert!
Stir-fry sweet potatoes in coconut oil
We learned chopping and stir-frying sweet potatoes in coconut oil was much quicker than boiling or baking them. And adding some spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger (along with some butter and salt) help this side become a tasty treat.
Photos by Ali Whittier
All you need is a large pot (large enough to hold your sweet potatoes without much stacking), coconut oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and a little bit of butter (we use Kerrygold) and salt.
Here’s what to do.
Start by chopping your sweet potato(es) into small blocks.
Heat up your pot when you’re almost done chopping.
Add your sweet potatoes and season them.
Cover them, then check in a few minutes to stir.
Finally, add a little bit of butter and salt to top things off.
There you have it! We prefers ours with some over-easy eggs, any green veg and also with almost any type of protein. The sky’s the limit with this versatile side – enjoy!
This week I’m sharing a recipe from Michael Rice of Mad Priest Coffee Roasters. Each month or so Michael features one of his coffees and the country it’s from, along with a recipe from that country. Mad Priest’s mission is to “craft good coffee, educate the curious, and champion the displaced”. The coffee/country/recipe combination is one of the ways they are doing that. This month’s country is Rwanda, the coffee is Bourbon from the Nyamagabe region, and the recipe is for Igisafuliya (Rwandan chicken stew). Although the recipe contains some exotic ingredients, they are available locally and most of the ingredients are found at the market as well.
The Rwanda coffee is my favorite so far from Mad Priest. The flavor notes listed are lemon, black tea, and balanced. I was surprised to see the lemon as my first thought drinking it was “chocolate!” Note that I eat unsweetened or lightly sweetened chocolate so I was not detecting a sweet taste. I think what I was experiencing was the balanced part of the flavor, an effect of a washed coffee such as this one - if I’m understanding this correctly. I’m no expert! In subsequent cups I began to notice the various subtle flavors that contribute to its complexity.
Photo by Zachary Cross
From Mad Priest about the featured coffee:
This coffee comes from Buf Cafe and is 100% Bourbon variety. The famed Buf Cafe washing station is in the mountains near the village of Karaba, in the Ginkongoro prefecture in south-central Rwanda. Buf Cafe started operation in 2000, after funding aid from the Rwandan Development Bank and USAID’s PEARL project.
In the 1930s, the Belgian colonial empire forced Rwandan farmers to plant masses of low-quality coffee. But the coffee industry was virtually wiped out after the horrific 1994 genocide (around 800,000 people were killed in 100 days), which was the culmination of a century of hostility and conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. In 1959, the Hutu revolution caused 300,000 Tutsi refugees to flee the country. But larger by far was the African Great Lakes refugee crisis after the genocide, which caused 2.1 million refugees (mostly Hutus) to flee to neighboring countries in 1994 (200,000+ fled to Tanzania on April 28 alone). The horrors continued in refugee camps where 50,000 people died of cholera and other diseases and the exiled Hutu military leaders took control of the camps, eventually leading to the First Congo War in 1996.
But slowly Rwanda is rebuilding, and some leaders recognized the potential of the coffee industry to re-write the future of the country. And in spite of the destruction of war, this “land of a thousand hills” has excellent coffee growing conditions: high altitude, volcanic soil, plenty of sun, and equatorial mist. Today the coffee industry has been responsible for creating jobs, boosting the farmers’ quality of life, and even helping in the reconciliation process between the Hutus and Tutsis, all while delivering some of the finest coffee to the world.
About the recipe:
Traditional Rwandan food includes lots of potatoes, beans, cassava, plantains, vegetables, and fruit, with occasional meat. Igisafuliya, which means “one pot” in Kinyarwanda, is a combination of some of these flavors in a mellow sauce. As the Rwandan proverb says, “The most extensive land is the human belly.” Enjoy!
Notes from Heather:
Ingredients in this recipe likely found at the market this week are chicken, onions, leeks, tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, and chili peppers. Occasionally some farmers have celery, too. The only exotic ingredient is plantain, but those are found at most grocery stores in the area. You’ll want green plantains as this is a savory dish. Green plantains can be a bother to peel but I’ve found soaking them in hot water for a while first helps the process.
From 196 Flavors
WHAT YOU NEED:
4 chicken thighs
2 onions, chopped
4 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
4 tomatoes, peeled and seeded, cut
The chopped leaves of a bunch of celery
4 plantains, peeled and cut in half lengthwise, then in half width
1 cup spinach, fresh or frozen
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons oil
1 chili pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
WHAT YOU DO:
In a large pot, sauté the chicken over medium-high heat in hot oil to brown all sides. Add the onion and bell peppers and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.bg /
Then add tomatoes, celery and tomato paste and mix well. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring regularly. Cover with water, add salt and pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Remove two pieces of chicken, place plantains, cover with spinach, then put the pieces of chicken on top. Add water if necessary so that plantains are completely immersed.
Cover, add the chili pepper, and simmer over low heat for about 25 minutes.
Photos of the finished dish here Printable recipe here
More info on Rwanda:
Brief history of coffee/country--example of blog post on a roasters website
NPR interview with african journalist about coffee
Brief history/current farm review--story of Epiphanie Muhirwa
In depth history/stories/coffee
Timeline of rwanda
More specific timeline of war years
Refugees returning finally in 2016
Super in-depth history of refugees
Great lakes refugee crisis
Quotes from journalists during crisis
Photo by Michelle Thompson
It's been here all along, and we all know there is nothing better than a slice. Hot or cold, thick or thin, with beer or orange juice (don't knock it till you try it)-pizza is arguably the best comfort food out there. Tomorrow, to celebrate all our farmers at Main Street and beyond, we will have a little extra fun down at the market for National Farmers Market Week. Thanks to our awesome vendor, Bread and Butter, we will be taking our pizza dough to the grill, with some other farmer donated toppings that make a pie that is crispy, a bit soft on the inside, a bit of char in all the right places. My advice is to keep a close watch on it, it doesn't take very long at all to cook the crust. The toppings need to be thin and precooked/sauteed. You can go veggie lovers with local peppers, squash, onions, and basil. Or meat lovers with local sausage, ham, bacon, or ground beef. Or try a fig/goat cheese/caramelized onion pizza. Make your own sauce or if you must buy it, but the local flavors really shine in this pizza. You could be eating your pizza from dough to chewy goodness in about 10 minutes flat. Easy as pie.
Recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen
Makes 4 thin, smallish pizzas
Heat your grill over medium-high.
Divide your dough into four quarters. Use your hands to gently stretch it into a thinner blob — it doesn’t need to be round — then lay it on a plate where you can stretch it further. We’re looking for a thin dough but it doesn’t need to be paper-thin or it might get too cracker-like once cooked. For this reason, I absolutely prefer hand-stretched over rolling pin-rolled for grilled pizza. You want an uneven, hand-stretched, thinness with some thicker spots. Repeat with other three quarters.
Brush tops of each thinly with olive oil. Place doughs oil-side-down on the grill (it will not fall through, promise) and cook for just a minute or two, until lightly browned underneath but still very doughy and soft on top. While they’re cooking, brush the tops of the doughs lightly with olive oil.
Once undersides are lightly cooked, remove doughs from grill and place cooked-side-up on a large tray. Thinly coat each cooked top with prepared sauce, then scatter with cheese. I like to season my pizzas at this point with a little salt and pepper before cooking them.
Slide each pizza back onto the grill and cook, lid down, until undersides are browned with a tiny char spot or two, and cheese has melted. If you abhor a pale pizza top, you could run these under your oven’s broiler for a minute for a toastier lid, but we rarely bother as the whole point is to cook and eat outside. Finish with fresh basil and eat immediately.
A Couldn't-Be-Simpler Pizza Dough
SERVINGS: 4, PETITELY
TIME: 2 HOURS
-2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose or bread flour, feel free to swap out some (I do 1/3) with whole wheat flour
-1 1/4 teaspoons (half a packet) instant or active dry yeast
-a heaped 1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
-3/4 cup room temperature water
Mix everything together in a big bowl with a spoon. It’s going to be craggy and messy. Get your hands in there and knead the dough together into a single, even mass, about 1 minute. If you’ve used whole wheat flour, I recommend 2 to 3 minutes of kneading, however, it helps soften it up faster. Place in a covered bowl and set it aside at room temperature for 2 hours.
This week is as simple as it gets. Greek salad is one of my favorite dishes in all its various forms. It is summer, it is hot, and let's just let the produce be the star with out a thought of turning on the oven. In this dish, featured from Main Street Farmers Market are the tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and peppers. If you wanted to take the dish from a hearty side to a main, I would add some chicken from the market. Dress it with what you like on a bed of romaine lettuce, I chose a simple balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing. Grab some oregano and mince it in the dressing to amp up the Greek flavor. This dish is definitely choose your own adventure- no recipe required. It looks great on a platter for a late summer gathering, or enjoyed at home just about any day of the week. Enjoy!