Monday, November 18, 2013

Mom's Split Pea Soup

Don't have a picture...I'm posting this for my friend over at The Greening of Westford.  It's a really delicious split pea soup, perfect for those long lazy weekend days.  Total cooking time is 4 hours, but total working time is about 15 minutes, so it's really an easy soup to make when you're going to be around to stir every once in a while.

Very few ingredients and most available locally this time of year--dried split peas, onions, carrots, and maybe even ham are all relatively easy to find locally in the fall.  So eat up!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ham hock (or any ham is fine, though the bone in the ham hock really adds flavor)
  • 16 oz package of split peas
  • 8 cups chicken stock (low sodium if you're not using homemade)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup carrots, finely chopped
  • garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste

Directions:

Pick over split peas then add to a large pot.  Add 8 cups of chicken stock and 2 cups of water, finely chopped onions, garlic powder, pepper, and ham hock.  Simmer for one and a half hours over low to medium low heat.

Remove ham hock and take meat off the bone, returning the meat to the pot.  Discard the bone and continue simmering the soup for another hour and a half.

Add carrots and simmer for an additional hour, stirring often.  Add extra water if the soup starts to look too thick, in 1/2 cup increments.  It will be a really thick soup, but shouldn't be porridge-y.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Wicked Awesome Thai Peanut Sauce

Hey, take a look at this!
It's maple syrup from the incomparable Ben's Sugar Shack!  I won a contest on their facebook page to share an interesting recipe idea using their maple syrup.  Of course I entered Wicked Awesome Thai Peanut Sauce.  This is a recipe I originally developed a few years back when I was writing a local cooking column for the Westford Patch.  But I've continued tweaking the recipe, so figured it was worth an update.

You can serve this sauce with just about anything.  It's great just over rice noodles.  Or with stir fried veggies.  Over when I posted it on the Patch, I served it with a combo of shrimp, scallops, and squid.  This time I just used what was in the fridge:  some tofu, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, green onions, and kale.  Use your imagination, or use this recipe to clean out the crisper drawer.





Ingredients:


1/2 cup peanut butter (I use crunch peanut butter for a weird reason:  my son is allergic to tree nuts.  While it's easy to find peanut butter that is free of tree nuts, it's almost impossible to buy whole peanuts that are free from cross contamination.  If you're not dealing with allergies, I'd probably go with smooth peanut butter, then add some crushed peanuts on top.  But crunchy peanut butter is a good short cut if you have to!)
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
4 Tablespoon maple syrup
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons veggie oil
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger root (or 1 teaspoon ginger powder)
2 cloves garlic, minced, or 1 teaspoon garlic paste, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 teaspoon spicy crushed red pepper flakes (you can use anything spicy is this recipe, as much or as little as you want.  It is a sweet recipe, so I like some spiciness to offset it--I usually use chili oil and red pepper flakes, but you can also use some spicy curry powder or paste, or finely diced spicy peppers, or anything else with a little kick).

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined.  It takes a bit of stirring, and looks kind of gross.  But, it tastes great. 

You don't really need to cook this sauce--I sample it as I'm making it to adjust the spicy/sweetness of it.  However, the flavors blend a little better if it's been cooked for a few minutes.  I usually just pour it over the skillet of whatever I'm making and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
_______________

Thanks again to Ben's Sugar Shack for the maple syrup.  If anyone is up in New Hampshire, check them out.  Or, I think they'll be back at the Westford Farmers Market this year--I guess I'll find out tomorrow at the first market of the season! And I know I've seen their products over at Springdell Farm in Littleton.  Seriously, maple syrup, maple sugar candy, maple cotton candy, maple everything.  Delish!

And if you're looking for a different take on a peanut sauce, Jules shared a delicious coconut curry peanut sauce recipe last summer.  I think it's safe to say we're fans of peanut sauce here at How Does Your Garden Grow!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Asparagus and Cream Cheese Pastry

Asparagus season!  Asparagus season!  Spring time in New England=new posts on How Does Your Garden Grow!

I've been avidly buying as much asparagus as my wallet can handle from Springdell Farm in Littleton.  Yum.  Wait, I need to say that again.  Yum!

I've been roasting it with Parmesan (from my days as a Patch food writer).  I've added it to grilled goat cheese and veggie pitas (from my sister-in-law's super fun Battle: Yum site).  I've made lemony quinoa and asparagus shrimp scampi (a favorite recipe I pulled out of the Boston Globe years ago and love to make every spring with fresh local asparagus).  Finally decided to go through my recipes and try something new.

What I ended up deciding to make was a contest winner from a Philadelphia cream cheese contest.  Can I be a little all-foodie-er-than-thou for a moment?  I kind of hate recipes that are "sponsored" by a specific brand.  I'm usually disappointed.  But this one:  it's asparagus and cream cheese on puff pastry.  Um, delish much?  Yes please!  And I just happened to have a single sheet of puff pastry hanging out in my freezer, just looking for a new recipe.  Cooking destiny!

I had pulled this recipe out of a Taste of Home magazine, but just found it on Allrecipes when I was looking for a link.  I made just a few changes, so feel free to go back to the award winning original if you'd like.  It truly is a spectacular recipe!



Ingredients:

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
1 bunch of asparagus (not too fat, not too skinny...you want them to cook at the same speed as your pastry!  I cherry picked stalks from two different bunches to try to get similar sized perfect stalks)
8 oz package of cream cheese, softened (I won't force a brand on you, though I must admit I did use Philadelphia!)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used real grated, not that green can)
1 teaspoon dried basil (oh  my, the recipe calls for fresh, which sounds awesome to me, but it's still too cold out for basil plants so I only had dried.  Use fresh if you've got it--recipe calls for 5 leaves--I'd double that to 10!)
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or knock yourself out and use fresh minced garlic--I didn't have any on hand)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Olive oil to drizzle
More Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Directions:

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together softened cream cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, dried basil, garlic powder, and lemon juice.

Unfold the thawed pastry and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  Cut into thirds along the "fold" lines, then cut each third in half to make rectangles.  Move the piece slightly away from one another.

Spread each pastry rectangle with the cream cheese mixture, leaving a little edge of pastry uncovered.

Trim asparagus to the length of your pastry rectangles.  Place a few asparagus spears on each pastry rectangle.  Original recipe called for 4 spears per rectangle, but I only used three and it was fine. (Note:  I saved the extra stem part that was too long and I had to cut off and used it in a batch of the lemony quinoa and asparagus recipe I linked above.  Don't waste that asparagus!)

Drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Bake for 20 or so minutes, until pastry is golden brown and puffed.  Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle a little extra Parmesan on top. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Fresh Eggs are Egg-cellent!

Did you know that the eggs you buy from your local grocer are probably one to two months old when you purchase them?  In addition, compared to conventional store eggs, pastured, free range eggs contain*:
  • 1/3 less cholesterol
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • Two times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • Three times more vitamin E
  • Seven times more beta carotene – converts to vitamin A
  • most recently noted, 4-6 times more vitamin D
 *simplebites.net

Not only that but they taste much better too!  And that means everything you make with them will taste better - whether it's hollandaise sauce, a frittata or your favorite batch of chocolate chip cookies. Trust me.   From the moment you see that deep-yellow-almost-orange-colored yolk, you will be smitten!

Actually, don't trust me.  Try them for yourself and let your taste buds be the judge.  If you live in my beloved Berkshires, here's a short list of local farms from which you can purchase fresh eggs from pastured, free range chickens.  There are many, many more options - feel free to share them in the comments section, these are just a few of the farms from whom I have personally purchased eggs.
You're also likely to find pastured, free range eggs at your local farmer's market.  Local author, Jennifer Trainer Thompson, just published an entire cookbook dedicated to fresh eggs.  It's called, what else, but The Fresh Egg Cookbook!  Available through Storey Publishing, you can also find copies at the Cricket Creek farmstore.  It contains a fabulous variety of recipes.  In the meantime, here are a couple of my favorite concoctions.

Soft-boiled Eggs on Toasted Challah
Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Gently lower one or two eggs into the water (I use a ladle to do this) and lower the temperature to simmer.  Set a timer for 5 minutes (no longer, no less).  Prepare a bowl of iced water (and when I say iced water, I mean place several cubes of ice in the water).  In the meantime, toast one or two slices of Challah bread.  As soon as your egg timer goes off, remove the egg(s) (again, I used a ladle) and place them in the bowl of iced water for 30 seconds.  If all goes according to plan, your bread will be done toasting and you can lightly butter it, while you wait for the eggs to cool in the iced water.  Once 30 seconds has elapsed, you should be able to crack the shell at the tip of each egg and peel it!  I like to break mine open right on top of the Challah toast.  Season with salt and pepper as desired - YUM!


Fried Egg on a Bed of Spinach
Saute a VERY large handful of spinach (or whatever type of green(s) you prefer - Chard works well too) in a small amount of butter.  After a minute or so the greens will wilt down.  Make a 'well' in the middle to crack and egg into and dot the spinach/greens with feta cheese.  This particular cheese is from Cricket Creek Farm and is made with cow's milk vs. goat.  Put a lid or cover on the pan and turn the heat off, allowing the egg to cook and the cheese to soften.  Season with salt and pepper as desired and serve with freshly toasted bread.


Here's to the incredible, edible egg!  Bon Appetit!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Easy Peasy Peach Croissants

I'm almost embarrassed to post this recipe it's so easy.  Almost.  But it's SO good and the end results are SO pretty to look at I can't resist!  

This is another recipe from the Savory Sweet Life cookbook, which I would have glossed right over for the time being had Alice not featured it in her weekly cookbook club.  And just in case that wasn't incentive enough, the timing of her feature coincided with the debut of local peaches here in western Massachusetts.  Enough said.  Off to the store I went to purchase a package of frozen puff pastry.  

You begin by thawing one sheet of frozen puff pastry.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Cut the peaches in half (my peaches were on the small side so I used three peaches) remove the pit and cut the peaches into slices.
Roll the puff pastry sheet out on a lightly floured surface and cut into four equal square pieces by cutting the sheet in half vertically and horizontally.  Take one square of puff pastry and rotate it so it looks like a diamond.  Place peach slices across the center of the diamond from left to right.   

Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, then grab the top and bottom corner and bring them to the center, pinching them together to seal them.  Repeat this process with each of the remaining squares and peach slices.

Place the croissants on the baking sheet.  Brush the puff pastry with an egg wash.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until the croissants are golden brown.  I topped mine with coarse sugar (because coarse sugar on top of nearly any baked good makes it better). 


I imagine these would be good with any sort of fruit filling.  I know I'll be making them with apples in a few weeks and would also like to try them filled with chocolate!

This is a great recipe to have on hand when you have overnight guests.  It's quick, simple and yields impressive results!


 Bon Appetit!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Orzo with Zucchini

So my dilemma this morning is figuring out whether I should make double chocolate zucchini bread OR lemon poppy-seed zucchini bread.  Perhaps a loaf of both?

Meanwhile, I've been meaning to share this recipe for orzo with zucchini (and CHEESE) with you!  Since we're in the height of zucchini season here in the northeast, I figured there's no better time than the present, so here you go!  

This recipe came from my friend, Kathryn, a few years ago and has become a 'regular' in our household.  You can use any type of cheese.  I've made it with good (imported) parmesan, goat cheese or most recently with Misery Mountain cheese from Cricket Creek Farm.   It's simple, hearty and delicious!

Orzo with Zucchini

1/2 lb. orzo
3 T. or so olive oil
a lot of zucchini: five or six small ones, two or three large ones, or even more
1 yellow or white onion, finely diced
1 c. or so grated/shredded cheese of your choice (the original recipe calls for parmesan, but I've used goat cheese, parmesan, or )
salt and pepper to taste (I like to use Borsari and fresh-grated pepper.  Borsari is produced by one of my childhood neighbors, you can read more about that here.)

Mixing orzo, zucchini and cheese


1. Cook orzo according to package directions.
2. Grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. Squeeze out excess water.
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Saute grated zucchini and onion over medium heat until well-cooked and beginning to brown (be patient, this will take a while)
4. Combine cooked orzo with cooked zucchini and onions. Stir in cheese.

Serving it up!


Bon Appetit!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cabbage and Beet Borscht

I know I've posted before about how I don't like cucumbers, and now I have to rag on another vegetable:  beets.  They taste like dirt.  There, I said it.  Their sweetness just makes the dirt-flavor more pronounced.  They're what I imagine a mud pie would taste like.  Yuck.

But, a lot of people like beets.  They're beautiful.  We get them quite frequently in our CSA share.  And I'm not one to give up--there has to be a way to prepare these that will be better than palatable.  Something I'll think is good.

And I may have found that recipe.  Cabbage and beet borscht.  My mother-in-law likes borscht, and she was coming over for dinner so I figured I'd use up my dreaded beets on a meal I knew at least one person would enjoy.  I scanned around the internet looking for a recipe, and ultimately settled on this one since I also had a head of red cabbage sitting in the fridge from the CSA.



I followed the linked recipe from Allrecipes pretty closely (except I omitted the optional caraway seeds, and vegetable quantities were approximate based on how much I had on hand).  It appears to be a near-clone of the Borscht recipe from The Moosewood Cookbook, a cookbook that is sadly lacking from my bookshelf.  Perhaps this will be the impetus I need to finally add The Moosewood Cookbook to my collection!

End result was a soup where the beet flavor was tamed from "dirty" to "earthy".  I can live with earthy.  I mean, I wouldn't want to eat this borscht every day, but for the times when we get beets in our CSA share, well, this isn't such a bad way to use them up!