Does a green thumb make a better cook?
If you're Marcia Rosenberg, or any of the other 300-plus Master Gardeners in the tri-county area, you can make a pretty compelling argument for that connection.
The group has just published a second edition of their cookbook, "From the Garden to the Kitchen," with 235 mostly new recipes but including a few favorite "classics" from the first edition. Its $15 cost raises money that supports gardening programs throughout the year.
Before we go any further, some may wonder, what is a Master Gardener? Well, it's a volunteer training program facilitated by Clemson Extension that's been around since 1981. People who enroll in the program go through a pretty rigorous study to become certified "MGs," and they become community educators themselves. In short, they help make us better, more informed gardeners.
To learn more about the program, go to http://www.clemson.edu/extension/mg/about/.
At any rate, "Master Gardeners just happen to be great cooks," says Rosenberg, a 2010 graduate who now does public relations/publicity for the group. "We have events where we ask everybody to bring a dish ... and it is just incredible, the gorgeous displays that are out on the table and the delicious tastes that they have. They are really top-notch cooks. So apparently the two go hand-in-hand."
Phil St. Pierre wrote the foreward to the book. He's a big supporter of the group as well as owner of Hidden Ponds Nursery and Garden Center in Awendaw. Phil also is a former banquet chef for the Colony House restaurant in Charleston.
Phil elaborates on the complementary nature of the two pursuits: "Gardeners and great cooks are often inspired by nature's bounty of color, vegetation and the sensory feelings of sight and smell to create their most wonderful recipes or designs for the perfect garden. ... And then, when the task is complete, they proudly share their creations with others."
Marcia gives us a heads-up on an event coming up this spring. On March 22, the Tri-County Master Gardener Association will put on a day-long Gardening School with lectures, hands-on workshops and, for the first time, a cooking class. Amanda McNulty, host of SCETV's "Making It Grow" is delivering the keynote address.
There also will be a booth set up during the school where Master Gardeners will offer samples of food, all made from the recipes in the cookbook. The book will be for sale, of course.
(Look for more details about the school in this section in the coming weeks.)
If you want the book now, there are a couple of options. Coastal Cupboard (in Belle Hall Shopping Center, Mount Pleasant) has them. And, it soon will be available at the Southern Season store (off Coleman Boulevard in Mount Pleasant). Marcia is working on getting them in more retail outlets.
Books also can be ordered. Email Jan Litton at email@example.com to find out what to do.
Here are a few of the recipes found within:
Bunky Lowder, class of '97, (she now has "emeritus" status) had several popular recipes in both editions, Marcia says. "Her ever-popular Vidalia Onion Pie is one of those recipes that had been requested so frequently ... that it was chosen to be in our newest version of the cookbook. This is a great Southern classic."
2 pounds Vidalia onions, peeled and thickly sliced
1/2 cup butter (not margarine)
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash Tabasco sauce
1 unbaked pie shell
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Saute onions in butter. Combine eggs and sour cream, add onions and stir in seasonings. Pour into pie shell and top with cheese. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, reduce heat to 325 degrees and cook 20 minutes more, or until brown and bubbly.
Cook's note: Calories may be reduced by using light sour cream, Egg Beaters and heart-healthy cheese.
Marian Bennett, class of '00, "always brings a dynamite dish to Master Gardener gatherings," Marcia says. "Her Vegetable Lasagna is a real comfort-food favorite."
Makes 12 to 15 servings
1 box (8 ounces) lasagna noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 jars (32 ounces each) prepared spaghetti sauce
15 to 16 ounces ricotta cheese
2 packages (10 ounces each) chopped frozen spinach, thawed and very well drained
1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
Prepare lasagna noodles according to package directions and drain. Heat oil in large sauce pan; add onion and garlic and cook until tender. Stir in spaghetti sauce. Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, and eggs; mix well.
In a 15x9-inch baking dish layer in order: 2 cups sauce, half of the lasagna, half of the remaining sauce, all of the spinach mixture, half of the remaining mozzarella, remaining lasagna, and sauce. Cover and bake at 350 degrees until bubbly, approximately 45 minutes. Uncover and top with remaining mozzarella cheese and parsley; bake 15 additional minutes.
Lastly, Maggie Fernald, class of '10, loves to bake desserts. "I know first-hand because she was my classmate and would often treat everyone to her delicious homemade sweets," Marcia says. "Check out her Lemon Love Notes for an easy and foolproof dessert the whole family will enjoy."
1/2 cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Powdered sugar for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the butter, 1 cup flour and 1/4 cup powdered sugar; using a fork or pastry blender, blend until crumbly. Press into an ungreased 8x8-inch square pan and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until it turns a light golden color; cool.
Combine sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and baking powder; add eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest and mix well. Pour mixture over crust and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes or until filling is set. Cool, cut into squares, and sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve.
Pat Frey for years has enjoyed a Green Tomato Chutney put out under the Rockland Plantation label. "I have not been able to find it for a few years now, and the last of my hoarded supply is almost gone. This is a very tasty, salt-free sauce for bland meats, such as pork and chicken. I'd be very happy if any of your readers could come up with a recipe."
Sharon Cook of Charleston comes to the rescue: "This is the Rockland recipe taken from the pages of a book called 'Putting Up: A Year-Round Guide to Canning in the Southern Tradition' by Steve Dowdney. The book is available from the local library as well as online from several places, including eBay, where you can get the paperback version for less than $3."
Makes 6 pint jars
2 pounds green tomatoes, diced
2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced
3/4 pound onion, diced
2 lemons, sliced and seeded and slices halved
1/2 ounces finely diced garlic
1/2 pound raisins
11/2 tablespoons mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
Hot solution: 2 cups apple cider vinegar and 11/2 pounds brown sugar, heated until sugar dissolves
Mix all ingredients until well-blended. Pour hot solution over tomato/apple mixture. Place in 6 one-pint jars and process in boiling water bath for 45 minutes to 1 hour until temperature of 190 degrees is reached. Place lids on top and add rings to seal. Once jars are sealed, they may be safely stored in pantry for up to 1 year.
Ann Spencer is looking for recipes, enchilada or otherwise, using fresh poblano peppers.
Still looking: Frances Butler of Johns Island is looking for a recipe for the Pizza Soup served by the Liberty Cafe that was once located in Avondale, west of the Ashley.