Last Bite: Asparagus

Last Bite: Asparagus

Fresh Hadley grass is fabulous adorned with nothing more than a pat of butter. But during asparagus season, we eat it every day and want to shake up our asparagus game. Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy this lovely local treat.

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Fall 2015 Cover Story

Cover photograph by Dominic Perri

One of the flavors that shouts “Fall!” to us is apple cider. In this issue we visit a family-run cidery and orchard: Bear Swamp Orchard. Find recipes using hard and sweet ciders, including one for tangy-sweet apple cider caramel, in the story here. We like this caramel drizzled over a big bowl of ice cream, naturally, but it’s also a decadent topper for a bowl of yogurt and granola. For a savory option, drizzle it over a pork roast, or mix with mustard to make a spicy-sweet sandwich spread.



Waste Not: Pesto Improvisations


Americans waste up to 40% of all food produced annually (National Resources Defense Council)––that’s 35 millions pounds of food that ends up in landfills each year (Environmental Protection Agency). In our new department Waste Not, Edible Pioneer Valley gives you a quick ways to use more of the food you buy. Check out our Waste Not section for more ways to reduce the amount of food you waste at home.

Summer is here and that means CSAs, farmers markets, and home gardens will be filling our kitchens with gorgeous vegetables. Impromptu pestos are a great way to use the “green leafies” that come attached to the top of your carrots, beets, radishes, and turnips. They also do yeoman’s work when it comes to taming the umpteenth bunch of kale in your CSA box. Pestos can be tossed with pasta, spread on sandwiches, used as a dip … the possibilities are endless.

 Recipe: Kale Stem Pesto


 Recipe: Radish Top Pesto



If your greens are tough, give them a quick blanch in boiling water, otherwise jump right in. Use the oil of your choice to blend the pesto and add nuts, cheese, tofu, and/or beans to thicken and enrich it. Finish with a splash of vinegar or citrus juice and a little salt and pepper.

Other combinations to try:

• Beet or chard stems (blanch first), olive oil, white beans
• Carrot tops (blanch first), sunflower oil, sunflower seeds, sharp cheddar, sherry vinegar
• Turnip tops, olive oil, Romano cheese, lemon
• Cilantro stems, pumpkin seeds, lime


EDIBLE RADIO: The Nourished Kitchen with Jennifer McGruther

McGr_Nourished KitchenMary Reilly of Edible Pioneer Valley spoke with Jennifer McGruther, blogger, writer and author of The Nourished Kitchen. They talked about home-made soda and fermenting leafy greens. 

Jennifer shared her recipes for beet kvass and creamed collards with us - find them below. 



Photo courtesy of Kevin McGruther


Beet kvass with ginger and mandarin

Beet kvass tastes of the earth, faintly reminiscent of mineral-rich soil with a mild sweetness that fades to sour as the tonic ferments and ages. Like many traditional foods, beet kvass, which is nothing more than the juice of fermented beets, can overwhelm the palate of those unaccustomed to the strong flavors of the Old World. Yet, with time, many people find that they develop a yen for the robust earthiness and sour-sweet flavor of the tonic.

My interest in other homemade sodas and herbal tonics waxes and wanes, but my love of beet kvass remains constant. I like to serve it over ice, diluted with sparkling or still mineral water. While I often prepare plain beet kvass, I also find that ginger and mandarin oranges temper its earthiness, providing a nice variation. The beet’s betacyanin content not only gives beets and this kvass their characteristic color, but it also provides potent antioxidants.

beet kvass with ginger and mandarin Makes about 6 cups

1/4 cup strained Ginger and Wild Yeast Starter for Homemade Sodas (page 289)

2 teaspoons finely ground unrefined sea salt

6 cups water, plus more as needed

3 pounds beets, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

2 mandarin oranges (with the skin on), sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

2 tablespoons peeled and freshly grated ginger

Pour the strained starter into a large pitcher, then whisk in the salt and water.

Put the beets, mandarins, and ginger in a 1-gallon fermentation crock. Pour in the liquid until the crock is full within 1 inch of its lip and the beets are completely submerged, adding additional water as necessary. Weigh the beets down with a sterilized stone, a glass or stoneware weight, or other utensil small enough to fit within your crock but heavy enough to act as a weight. Seal the crock and allow the kvass to ferment at room temperature for at least 7 days. Taste the kvass, and if you prefer a stronger or sourer flavor, continue fermenting for another week.

Strain the kvass and funnel it into pint‑size flip-top bottles. Discard the mandarins, but reserve the beets, if you like, and serve them as you would a pickle or other fermented vegetable. Store the kvass in the refrigerator for up to 1 year, noting that it may thicken slightly as it ages.

Creamed collard greenscollared greens

There’s an old-fashioned charm to the sturdy collard green, whose tough stems and broad leathery leaves spring from garden beds throughout the year. Despite near year-round availability, collards are at their best in the cold months after the first frost, which sweetens the otherwise notoriously bitter green. Here, heavy cream and caramelized onions add luxurious sweetness to counterbalance the collards’ briny undertones.

Serves 4 t o 6

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 bunches collard greens, about 24 ounces, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Melt the butter in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When it froths, decrease the heat to medium, stir in the onion, and fry until fragrant and a bit caramelized at the edges, 6 to 8 minutes.

Toss the chopped collards into the skillet and cook, stirring until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low, stir in the heavy cream, and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, until the cream is reduced by half and thickened. Sprinkle with the nutmeg and serve.


Edible Radio: Put' Em Up! With Sherri Brooks Vinton

112612_SherriL-034rtOn the Kitchen Workshop, host Mary Reilly from Edible Pioneer Valley, speaks with Sherri Brooks Vinton about boiling-water canning and getting your kitchen "canning ready" so you can take advantage of the market when the mood strikes! Sherri is the author of the Put 'Em Up series of preserving and canning cookbooks. 


Read on for recipes for Lemon-Ginger Marmalade and Pickled Mushrooms. Learn more about Sherri and get more recipes at



153_cJenniferMayPhotography_LemonGingerMarmalade_PutEmUpFruitMakes 5 cups

Lemon and ginger, a classic combo of sunny and warm together in one great spread. The rind from the lemon give this marmalade some bite so it’s not all frills. This is a great topper for some hearty rustic bread that can stand up to a jam with attitude.

  • 2 pounds lemons (8–10)
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 (4-inch) knob fresh ginger, minced


1. Using a vegetable brush, scrub the fruit with a nontoxic, odorless dish soap and hot water.

2. Cut off the tops and bottoms of the lemons deeply enough to remove the solid disks of pith and reveal the flesh of the fruit. Quarter the fruits and cut away the center rib. Flick out the seeds with the tip of your knife. Thinly slice the quartered lemons crosswise. Combine the lemon slices with the water in a large nonreactive pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and set aside overnight to soften the rinds.

3. The next day, measure the volume of the lemon mixture (you should have about 4 cups). Return the lemon mixture to the pot and add an equal amount of sugar, along with the ginger. Slowly bring to a hard boil, stirring frequently to avoid burning the sugar. Continue cooking until gel stage is reached (see page 28), about 15 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat. Allow the marmalade to rest for 5 minutes, giving it an occasional gentle stir to release trapped air; it will thicken slightly. Skim off any foam.



Use the boiling-water method as described on page 20. Ladle the marmalade into clean, hot 4-ounce or half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace between the top of the marmalade and the lid. Run a bubble tool along the inside of the glass to release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands until they are just fingertip-tight. Process the jars by submerging them in boiling water to cover by 2 inches for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, and let the jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check the seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.



216_cJenniferMayPhotographyInc_PickledMushrooms_PutEmUpMakes about 2 pints

A number of cultures lay claim to mushroom pickles: Italy, Germany, and Poland all have their style with these tasty bites. I’ve taken the United Nations’ approach — this is a mash-up recipe that takes a little bit from each tradition.

  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 pound white button mushrooms, stemmed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped


Combine the vinegar, brown sugar, bay leaves, salt, peppercorns, and fennel seed in a large nonreactive saucepan, and bring to a boil. Add the mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.


Refrigerate: Transfer to bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Can: Use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot pint canning jars, covering the solids by 1/4 inch with liquid. Leave 1/4 inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.


covernewclassicsKitchen Workshop host Mary Reilly, editor and publisher of Edible Pioneer Valley is joined by Helen Rosner. Helen is an editor, writer and photographer. She is also a contributing editor at Saveur magazine, where she was responsible for wrangling over 1000 recipes into the book: The New Classics Cookbook.

In this action-packed podcast, Mary and Helen cover home-made spice rubs and blends, including a fresh poultry seasoning that will change how you cook chicken. Then they discuss the similarity between sandwiches and home construction, get salty discussing the classic dish: Sh** On a Shingle, the relatively unknown Schnitzel and the perfect Italian Beef Sandwich.

Recipes for Homemade Fresh Poultry Seasoning and Schnitzel below.



Homemade Fresh Poultry Seasoning

Our fresh poultry seasoning blend puts the jarred stuff to shame. This pungent, lively mix leaves out salt, so you can add it directly to turkey, stuffing, or chicken without fear of overseasoning.  


  • 3 tbsp. finely chopped thyme
  • 3 tbsp. finely chopped rosemary
  • 3 tbsp. finely chopped sage
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped marjoram
  • ½ tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. celery seeds
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika

Combine thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram, pepper, celery seeds, nutmeg, ginger, and paprika in a bowl or jar and mix well. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 


Schnitzel Sandwich

Serves 4

Schnitzi Schnitzel Bar, in Brooklyn, New York, makes nine different types of schnitzel—a breaded chicken sandwich popular in Israel and in Orthodox Jewish enclaves in the U.S.—and serves them with 13 varieties of homemade sauce. This recipe is an adaptation of the restaurant’s chile-flecked “Spanish” schnitzel, one of its most popular variations. 

Edible Pioneer Valley note: Don't get discouraged by the number of ingredients and components listed. The sauces can be made ahead or you can substitute other sauces and spreads of your choice.


  • 61⁄2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3⁄4 cup plus 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted 
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup roughly chopped roasted red bell peppers
  • ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1½ tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped oregano
  • 1½ tsp. crushed red chile flakes
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley


  • 4 cups flour
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups dried bread crumbs
  • 1⁄2 cup crushed red chile flakes 
  • 12 1⁄4′′-thick chicken cutlets
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1⁄4 cup canola oil
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced lengthwise 
  • 4 12′′ French baguettes, split
  • Sweet chile sauce, to taste
  • 4 cups loosely packed shredded romaine lettuce 
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1⁄2 cup sliced dill pickles

Make the pesto: Combine basil, oil, nuts, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor and process until smooth; transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Make the chimichurri: Clean the food processor, then add oil, peppers, white vinegar, salt, wine vinegar, paprika, oregano, chile flakes, pepper, cumin, garlic, parsley, and 1⁄4 cup water. Process until smooth; transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Place flour, eggs, and bread crumbs mixed with chile flakes in three separate shallow dishes. Season flour and chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches, coat cutlets with flour, shaking off excess. Dip in eggs, then dredge in bread crumb mixture. Set aside.

Heat oil in a 12′′ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add cutlets and cook, turning once, until golden brown, 4–6 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Once all cutlets are cooked, add half the onions to skillet and cook, stirring often, until soft and caramelized, about 8 minutes.

Place 3 cutlets on bottom half of each baguette and cover with sauces, to taste. Top each with lettuce, tomatoes, remaining raw onions, cooked onions, and pickles. Cover with top half of baguette.

DIY: Hot Stuff!

2014_July24_EdiblePioneerValley_Recipes_1262Hot Stuff!

By Don Lesser 

There are three families of bottled hot sauces: chili pepper-salt-vinegar combos, like Frank’s or Texas Pete; fermented hot sauces, like Tabasco; and flavored hot sauces, like sriracha or Melinda’s. About six years ago, I set out to make my own hot sauce using local peppers. It’s taken a number of batches, but I’ve settled on the recipes that work well.

The basic technique is pretty simple: Simmer chopped hot peppers—cayenne, Serrano, jalapeño—in vinegar and salt, pass them through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds, and thin the resulting purée with enough vinegar to get the texture you like. You can use either green or red peppers, but any amount of green peppers results in an olive-drab color that is not very appealing. McIlhenny, the makers of Tabasco, reportedly have a red stick, a baton rouge, that they used to select peppers of the proper bright color.

For a sriracha-style sauce, add garlic and sugar to the simmering mash. A Melinda’s-style sauce includes shredded carrots and habaneros. Once you have the basic technique down, you can experiment with ingredients until you have created your own unique blend. You can always raise the heat level (see the sidebar for a discussion of Scoville units) by adding one or two habanero peppers to the mash.

I keep my pepper mash in the refrigerator for several months before finishing and bottling it. The aging helps the flavors meld and mutes the bite of the vinegar. If you start the sauce in September, it will be ready for gift-giving by December. I also keep my finished sauce in the refrigerator; the salt and vinegar are preservatives and the sauce will keep for months, but the cold keeps the color nice and bright. The sriracha-style sauce stiffens and separates after a month, so I consider it a fresh sauce, best used soon after it is are made.

Cayenne PeppersI’m not as fond of the taste of fermented sauces, but I’ve experimented with them enough to see the key problem is keeping a white mold from forming on the mash. McIlhenny seals its mash in barrels with holes bored in the top and covered with mesh. A two-inch layer of rock salt over the mesh keeps mold spores and insects out. You can approximate this with a French press: put the mash in the press, layer rock salt on top of the plunger and make sure to leave enough space between the mash and the plunger to keep the salt dry. Leave the mash in a dark, not-too-hot place to ferment. Bubbles will form on the side of the mash. When they stop forming, after a week or so, the mash is ready. McIlhenny ages its mash for two years for Tabasco. 

Born in Queens, NY, Don Lesser came to the Pioneer Valley for an MFA in fiction in 1977. He has spent the last 30+ years living, cooking, and writing here. He currently lives in Amherst. He can be contacted via