Sunday, October 12, 2008

Potato Pancakes, Apple Compote, and Zucchini Brownies

While summer's bounty is at an end, I completely love the flavors of fall. Here are a couple of recipes to keep you cooking local through October:

Potato Pancakes

This recipe is based on the recipe for potato pancakes in The Joy of Cooking. I've made some slight changes.


5 medium potatoes, peeled, washed, and coarsely grated (about 2.5 cups coarsely grated)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten (may need 3 eggs)
1 tablespoon finely grated onion (I almost always use about 1/2 teaspoon onion powder instead. A cheat, I know.)
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil for frying


Peel, wash, and coarsely grate the potatoes. Then place handfuls into a dish towel and wring out excess water. Place the potatoes into a large bowl. Mix with the remaining ingredients (except the vegetable oil).

The resulting mixture should be kind of liquid-y: mostly potatoes, but definitely some liquid that settles to the bottom of the bowl. If the mixture seems dry, add a third egg. This is a very forgiving recipe. Sometimes I only use 2 cups of potatoes, sometimes I use more like 3 cups. Sometimes it's pretty liquidy, sometimes it's more dry. It always turns out yummy, though!

Cover the bottom of a large skillet with approx 1/4 inch of vegetable oil. Heat over medium high heat until hot. (As a tip, you can use a wooden chopstick to test the oil. When the oil is hot enough, bubbles should form around the tip of the wooden chopstick when you dip it in the oil. You can then use the chopstick along with a spatula to help flip the pancakes).

Drop spoonfuls of potato mixture into the hot oil. Use the back of the spoon to spread the mixture out thinly. The thinner your pancakes, the crispier they will become so flatten them according to your preference (very thin if you like crispy pancakes, thicker if you like them less crispy). Stir the potato mixture in the bowl between each spoonful you add to the pan so that the liquid doesn't just settle to the bottom of the bowl.

Fry until browned on the bottom, flip, and fry until the other side is browned. Remove to paper towels to drain.

These are delicious served with sour cream, applesauce, or the apple "compote" I'll include below.


Apple Compote

This isn't really a compote, but I'm not sure what to call it. Maybe a warm, extremely chunky applesauce?


5-8 apples
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons water (or more)


Peel the apples, and then shave chunks off directly into a large saucepan. Add a couple tablespoons of water, and place over medium low heat. Add the cinnamon and sugar and heat until warm and softened, about 15 minutes. This is another forgiving recipe. Cook it longer over a lower heat, though you will probably have to add more water if it starts to dry out. Cook it a really long time, and it'll keep getting more and more like applesauce.

The flavor and consistency of this is dependent on the apples used. I like to use a variety of apples. In the picture above, I used Macs, Jonagolds, and Mutsus, the varieties I picked earlier this week.


Okay, and dessert is really a summer dessert, that I've been meaning to post for a few months. But keep it in mind for next summer when those zucchinis are once again overflowing the crisper drawers!

Chocolate Zucchini Brownie Cake

I follow the linked recipe exactly and it turns out so amazingly. One of my friends has also make it subbing applesauce for the oil, and said it was still very good. My only complaint about the recipe is that they call it brownies. It's really more like a cake in my opinion. Whatever it is, it's delightful!


Last note: I made this meal for my Pass the Plate meal. You can see the part of the plate, which I put the potato pancakes on. KitchenAid is selling platters to raise money for breast cancer research. The idea is that you buy a plate, register it online, then cook something for a friend or family member. Then they cook something and pass it along to someone else, who passes it to someone else, etc. Everyone registers the plate online as they pass it, and every time it gets passed, KitchenAid donates $5.

It was really fun to do, and such an easy way to help raise money for breast cancer research!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Apple Peach Blueberry Pie

Quick, it's that magic time of year when you can get fresh, local apples, peaches, and blueberries. And there's nothing better than Apple Peach Blueberry Pie.

I created the recipe for Pi Day this past year, expanding upon my mom's delicious apple pie recipe. And let me tell you, while I loved this pie in March, it's a million times better with ingredients fresh off the tree!

Here's my recipe for Apple Peach Blueberry Pie:

6 to 8 apples (I like to use a variety of types, larger sized apples. If you use small apples, peel more like 10 to 12)
2 or 3 peaches
2/3 cup of blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons of butter (optional...I almost always forget it!)
2 pie crusts (make your own or buy from the refrigerator section...I won't tell!)


Peel apples and peaches and thinly slice into a large bowl. Add blueberries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir gently to coat and let sit for at least ten minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place bottom pie crust into pie plate. Add all of the filling. Cut up the butter and dot around on top of the filling. Top with second pie crust. Cut vents in top.

Place aluminum foil around the edges of the pie to prevent burning. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and continue baking an additional 10 to 20 minutes until the pie is nicely browned.


For all you locals, we went to Parlee Farms to pick fruit. They are reasonably priced (we spent $39 for a peck of stone fruit and a 1/2 bushel of apples...over 30 lbs of apples, peaches, nectarine, and plums!) And, it's a lot of fun for kids with a hay ride out to the orchards, a small farm animal area, and a hay maze. They also have a nut-free bakery. It was such a joy to be able to buy a cookie for my son with nut allergies. And if that's not enough, they even had local fall strawberries in their farm stand. Local strawberries! In September! Yum.

Figured I'd pass along the recommendation since we had such a great time!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pickles and Baba Ghanoush

True confessions time: I don't like cucumbers. At all. I mean, I don't even like them to touch my real food. Their icky flavor invades everything it touches. Yuck. But I love pickles. Oh, the hidden depths of me. So, when I saw the post on Boston Dish about making pickles, I figured I'd give it a go. I used the recipe she linked as my starting point, and made just a few changes.


4 medium sized cucumbers (I only had regular cukes, no pickling cukes)
1 Tablespoon pickling salt
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh dill
2 cloves garlic
1 serrano pepper


Thinly slice cucumbers and place in a large bowl. Add salt, mix, and place in the refrigerator for 90 minutes to 3 hours (no need to be exact...I forgot about mine!).

Place cucumbers in a colander and rinse under cold water, then return to the bowl.

Peel and crush garlic cloves. Cut the serrano pepper in half and remove seeds.

In a medium saucepan, place all remaining ingredients (except the cucumbers). Bring to a boil over medium heat and stir until all the sugar dissolves. Take my advice and do not put your face over the boiling vinegar. And if you do, certainly don't take a big breath. Just my two cents, based on hard-learned experience!

Pour the boiling vinegar mixture over the cucumbers. Cover, refrigerate, and wait around 24 hours. Then voila! Magic occurs, and those cucumbers have become pickles! Keep refrigerated and eat within 2 weeks. Or 5 days, if you're us.

These pickles were surprisingly good. I took them to a picnic, and overheard a couple of elementary school kids talking about how good they were. And how sweet they were. These pickles are pretty sweet, which isn't a big surprise given the huge quantity of sugar in the recipe. The longer the pickles sat in the fridge, the more sour they became. So if you don't like very sweet pickles, you may want to give it a few days before you try them.


On an unrelated note, one of my favorite eggplant dishes is Baba Ghanoush. However, I've never been able to find a recipe that is anywhere near as good as our favorite, which sadly is from a restaurant in Atlanta. Not exactly some place we can just pop in when the urge takes us. So in my ongoing quest to find a great Baba Ganoush recipe, I tried one from The Figs Table by Todd English and Sally Sampson. I was intrigued by this recipe as it included mint, an ingredient I never thought to try in Baba Ganoush. I made a few minor changes to the recipe:


4 Chinese Eggplants
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tahini
Juice of one lemon
8 mint leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
minced scallions, lemon zest, and additional olive oil for garnishing
Pita bread


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick egglants all over with a fork, then rub with olive oil. Place on a cookie sheet, and roast in the oven, turning once, for approximately 30 minutes (until soft...depends on the size of your eggplant). Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 mintues.

Peel the garlic cloves and throw into a blender (or large food processor if you're lucky enough to have one. My mini just didn't seem up to the challenge of four eggplants!). Cut then ends off each eggplant, cut a slit down the side of each eggplant, and peel the skin off with your fingers. Add the flesh of the eggplant to the blender. Add the tahini and blend until smooth. You'll have to stop and use a rubber spatula to mix the ingredients around from time to time.

Add the lemon juice, mint leaves, salt, and pepper, and continue blending (and stirring when necessary) until the mint leaves have been completely incorporated.

Chill covered in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Remove to a plate, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, and garnish with scallions and lemon zest. Serve with pita bread for dipping.

We enjoyed this recipe, although it still didn't quite live up to our restaurant favorite. The mint was a very interesting addition, and this worked just fine with Chinese Eggplant (the original recipe called for one regular eggplant). While this was good, though, I'll probably keep searching for the elusive "perfect" Baba Ghanoush.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Minty Lamb Meatballs

We picked up some ground lamb from Stillman Farm, and some mint at the CSA. Hmm, mint, lamb, let me look around for a recipe. And boy, did I find a good one: Lamb Meatballs. I followed the recipe pretty closely, just skipping the food processing step as that seemed too fussy for me. Oh, and I omitted the olive oil. Do you know how fatty ground lamb is? I certainly didn't need to add extra fat to fry it!

It's not a huge surprise, but the flavor of the lamb and the mint went together perfectly. And the sauce was a perfect accompaniment. It was really outstanding. TK ate a phenomenal quantity. If we're being honest, so did I :) Even N-man enjoyed them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Corn and Tomato Salad, Zucchini Cookies

It's hard to believe, but I think I'm finally getting sick of corn on the cob. We've been eating it nearly every day for almost a month, and I'm just starting to look for recipes besides shuck-heat-eat. One of my girlfriends had mentioned she made a corn and tomato salad, but couldn't remember the recipe. So I just winged it. I mean, corn, tomatoes, what else does it need?

I guess I thought of a few more ingredients!

3 ears corn
20 or so cherry tomatoes
10 leaves of basil
Splash of olive oil
Slightly larger splash of balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste


Shuck corn, removing all corn silk. Boil the corn for about 2 minutes. Place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and cool them down. When they are cool, cut off the kernels (be careful, the corn may be hotter near the cob). Put the corn kernels into a bowl.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half and add to the bowl with the corn.

Mince the fresh basil, and add to the bowl. Splash in some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, add a few cracks of pepper and salt, give it a stir, and you're done. If you have time, let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour to let the flavors develop. Or just eat it right away.

We all enjoyed this, although I wasn't that happy with the visual appeal of the dish. Our corn from the CSA was very light this week, nearly white without any sprinklings of yellow. And we had picked mostly golden cherry tomatoes at the farm (I rooted through the salad to get some of the few red cherry tomatoes in the picture above). The balsamic vinegar almost made the light colors look muddy. I don't know, this is all tasted just fine. But if I was making it again, I'd look for yellower corn and redder tomatoes. Or I'd try a red wine vinegar instead of balsamic. It needs something to brighten up the colors of the dish to match the bright, fresh flavor. Let me know if you figure it out!


This week I also made the chocolate chip zucchini cookies mentioned in Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I followed the recipe exactly, so I won't reprint it here, and I have to say while they were okay, I was a bit disappointed. The cookies were very soft and cakey, no crunch at all, no matter how long I cooked them (well, within reason. The recipe called for 10-15 minutes cooking, I went as long as 20 minutes with one batch. Still very soft).

They were okay, but nothing special. If I was going to make baked goods from zucchini in the future, I'd probably stick with zucchini bread. And if I felt like adding vegetables to my cookies, I'd probably stick with oatmeal carrot chocolate chip cookies.

But I include this here in case you want to give it a go for the novelty of the recipe, or because you're making all the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle recipes, or just to steer you away if you were on the fence. But as I said, they weren't bad. I mean, it used a whole bag of chocolate chips. How bad could they be? And at the very least, my boys are eating them as fast as I'll let them. Hey, it counts as a vegetable, right?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Black Bean and Corn Salad, Zucchini Grinders

I love corn on the cob. I mostly just eat it lightly steamed, or occasionally grilled. But, I've been trying to branch out a little and try some new recipes. One thing I decided to throw together was a corn and black bean salsa. Or salad. I'm not sure which I'd call it, but it was yummy.


1 can (15 oz.) of black beans
4 ears of corn
3 green onions
1 tablespoon fresh minced cilantro (or more to taste)
Ground cumin to taste
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste


Husk corn and cut the kernels off the cobs. Everyone has a favorite way to do it, but if you're a newbie, here's what I do:
1) When you husk the corn, leave the stems intact (don't break off!)
2) Cut a small amount of the bottom (tip end) of the corn off so you have a flat surface (and it gets rid of the kernels that are generally too small or a little yucky at the tip).
3) Get out a big roasting pan. Holding the corn upright in the pan, use a sharp knife to cut rows of corn off. Keep turning the corn until you've cut off all the kernels. The roasting pan will catch all the kernels as they fall from the cob.

In a medium pot, boil water, then add the corn. Boil for about 2 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water. (You could also cook the corn on the cob before you cut the kernels off. I just didn't have time to let the corn on the cob cool before cutting it, so I cut it first). Place corn into a large bowl.

Drain and rinse black beans until the water runs clear. Place into the bowl with the corn.

Thinly slice the whites and greens of the green onions and add to the bowl.

Add the olive oil, minced cilantro, ground cumin, and salt. Stir gently and well.

Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

That's it. You can eat it as a salad, but I especially liked it as a salsa with pita chips.

For once, this was something my three year old boys would actually eat. They especially loved picking out their black beans, and loved to spoon it onto pita chips (although it would mostly fall off the chips before it reached their mouths).


And here's a quickie bonus recipe: Zucchini Grinders. It's a vegetarian sandwich inspired by a meatball sub. Except you use zucchini instead of meatballs. It's a favorite in our house that I make a few times each summer. When I made them last night, I threw in 4 small diced tomatoes while I sauteed the zucchini. I didn't even bother to peel or seed the tomatoes. You could also add in some eggplant or mushrooms or onions or peppers or really, whatever you happen to have around. Or just follow the recipe as written as it is quite yummy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese

I must admit that beets aren't my favorite, and I'm trying not to let my kids catch on. I mean, they're sweet. They're such a bold, pretty color. Shouldn't kids be attracted to beets? Shouldn't I? But I keep persisting, thanks to our CSA, in trying to make delicious beet recipes. I doubt I'd go out and buy beets, but when they show up in our share, I figure I'm obliged to try to enjoy them.

This time I decided on Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese, borrowing quite heavily from this recipe. Not my favorite food picture ever, but my kids were pretty amused that I'd used the flowered dessert plates to make the beets look like a flower.

Here is the recipe with my changes:


2 bunches of small-ish beets (about 8-10 beets)
4 small eating onions from the CSA (about 1/3 cup minced) (you could substitute regular onion or shallots)
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
plenty of crumbled goat cheese (for those eating local in MA, I'm in love with Capri goat cheese from Westfield Farm)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove any beet greens, leaving a small amount of stem. Wash the beets and place in a baking dish. Toss with some olive oil until lightly coated. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil (or a lid) and bake about 45 minutes to an hour, until beets are easily pierced by a fork.

While the beets are roasting, mix together all the other ingredients besides the goat cheese. Set aside.

After beets have cooled slightly, cut off the top and bottom and use your fingers to remove the skin. Slice thinly into rounds.

Place the beets onto a serving dish and top with the vinaigrette and crumbled goat cheese.


These were the most delicious beets I've ever eaten. They got rave reviews from everyone who tried them, which unfortunately did not include our children, who are persisting in their vegetable ban.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Cilantro Serrano Cream Sauce

Yesterday I got the urge to go to a Farmers' Market. I checked a handy-dandy Massachusetts Farmers' Market list, and saw the only Sunday market was in Charles Square in Cambridge. So it was an easy decision where to go! There were only about 5 or 6 vendors there, and I couldn't find any eggplant, which was the original reason for making the trip, but it was still fun and we got plenty of stuff.

One of the neat things we got was a bunch of squash blossoms. Let's be honest: squash blossoms are one of those ingredients that are a big pain in the patootie. They're a lot of work, they have to be used nearly immediately, and they are relatively expensive (we paid $4 for a bunch of about 12 blossoms). But I just can't resist, at least once a year.

I went with a fairly traditional stuffed squash blossom recipe I came up with based on what I had on hand. Then I battered them and deep fried. My husband made cilantro serrano cream sauce, that was a perfect accompaniment. Here are the recipes:

Stuffed Squash Blossoms:


Approximately 12 squash blossoms
12 oz. ricotta cheese
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons finely diced onion (or shallots)
1 teaspoon butter
Freshly cracked black pepper


Gently wash the squash blossoms, then reach in and remove the inside stuff (the stamen, I think it's called). It's fine if the blossom rips down one side.

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Finely dice the garlic and onion, and add to the pan. Saute until slightly softened. You can skip this step if you like the crunch/bite of raw onion and garlic.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, onions and garlic, and black pepper to taste.

Place the cheese mixture in a pastry bag with no tip. Believe me, I used a tip and learned my lesson. Even though I had very finely minced the garlic and onion, about halfway through stuffing the blossoms, a piece that was slightly too large got stuck in the tip and I had to take the whole thing apart to get the tip out. After that, I used the bag with no tip and it was fine. Anyway, load up the pastry bag and fill each squash blossom until about 1/2" from the top. Don't overfill, especially if you ripped the blossoms along one side, as it will just all leak out. Twist the top slightly to seal the blossom. Repeat until all blossoms are stuffed.

For the batter, I used this recipe as a starting point, but had to make some changes. It made far more batter than I needed, so you might want to have some other veggies on hand as well to batter and fry.

Batter ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup ice cubes
1 1/2 cups cold water (or less...add slowly)
additional flour for dredging

Vegetable oil for frying

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the egg, ice cubes, and about 1/2 of the cold water. Stir them together (a single chopstick is the best thing to definitely don't want to over mix). Keep adding water until you've reached a thin pancake batter consistency. Don't make this need to use it pretty soon after you've mixed it.

Place enough vegetable oil in a wok or heavy bottomed pan to fry the squash blossoms. Heat over high heat. I only put enough oil to cover about 1/2 the blossom and then just flip the blossom halfway through cooking.

Roll the squash blossoms in flour to coat, then hold the stem and dip the blossom in the batter until coated. If the batter doesn't cling to the blossoms, it's too thick. Add a little more cold water to thin it.

Place the blossom in the hot oil. Repeat until all blossoms are in the oil. It'll probably be time then to start flipping the first blossoms you added to the oil. The batter should be golden brown when finished, about 2 minutes per side.

Remove to paper towels to drain.


You can eat the squash blossoms plain if you'd like. We served ours with a cilantro serrano cream sauce, following the linked recipe. It's a perfect recipe for all you Waltham Fields members as we're getting Serrano peppers now as well as garlic. Our garden is also full of cilantro, so it's really the ideal time for this recipe.

We thought the recipe as written was slightly too mayonaisse-y. If we make it again (and we will), we'll probably replace some mayo with milk or cream. Oh, and we only used one serrano pepper to make it less spicy for our kids, and more importantly, because we only had one serrano pepper. It was just slightly spicy. If your kids will eat spicy foods, I'd probably use at least two peppers. Or make it with one, take some out for your kids, then add an extra pepper or two to the rest of the sauce for the adults.

The cream sauce was delicious over chicken as well. Probably not of interest to all you vegetarians, but I figured I'd mention it for any other omnivores who pop by.


I should add why I thought this was a kid-friendly meal. I figured: flowers, neat. Cheese, always a hit. And deep-fried, that's a home run! The flavor of the stuffed blossoms is fairly plain. Good, but not overwhelmingly flavorful for young palates.

Of course, my kids would have needed to taste these to realize they would have liked them. Ah well...maybe people with more adventurous kids will have more luck! The adults in our house loved these, and one of my sons really loved to help prepare them even if he didn't try it. So it wasn't a total loss.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Berry Berry Cherry Bleu Burgers

While we were in Buffalo, we visited what was quite possibly the very best fruit picking farm in the whole country. Okay, fine, I haven't been to very many fruit picking farms, but the one we went to was really great. If anyone is ever in Western New York, check out Brown's Berry Farm. While there we picked vast quantities of sweet cherries, blueberries, and raspberries.

We ate them plain, I threw them in breakfasts, desserts, you name it. But in the back of my head, I'm still pretty intrigued by the meat/fruit combo I mentioned the other day. So as I was searching around for berry recipes, I was immediately captured by a few recipes that mentioned adding blueberries to burgers.

Okay, I'm game. But I wanted to use all the fruit we picked. And there was some bleu cheese left in the cheese drawer. I love bleu cheese and fruit. I love bleu cheese on burgers. Hmmmm...

I think it's time to create Berry Berry Cherry Bleu Burgers!

Here's what I did:


1 lb ground beef (I think I had more like 1.25 lbs)
1/3 cup blueberries
1/3 cup raspberries
1/3 cup pitted cherries
Crumbled bleu cheese


In a large bowl, use a potato masher to coarsely mash the blueberries and raspberries. Finely chop the pitted cherries and add to the bowl.

Add the ground beef to the bowl and mix. I used my hands to really get it mixed up.

Form a very thin, flat patty. Add a generous amount of blue cheese in the center. Top with another thin, flat patty and mush the sides together until it's sealed.

I made 3 regular sized burgers and 2 mini-burgers for my kids. Your mileage my vary depending on how large you like your burgers to be.

Grill to taste, then top with additional cheese if desired.

Here's what it looked like before we cooked them. You can really see the berries mixed in!

And here's what it looked like after we were done cooking.

It just looks like a regular burger, doesn't it? I really loved the berries mixed in. It added a little sweetness and a lot of juiciness. The burgers weren't dry at all. I thought it was a definite improvement over a plain burger. But TK wasn't quite as convinced. He didn't dislike it, but said he'd prefer a normal burger in the future. Oh well, you can't please them all. Or in this case, anyone but me as the boys didn't even try it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Herbed Butter

This is a simple recipe to use up some of the vast quantities of herbs you have in your garden, or CSA distribution, or just when you have to buy a whole bunch but just need 1 teaspoon for your recipe. Sure, you could dry them, or freeze them, but where's the fun in planning ahead? Eat 'em!

At our last CSA this week, there was you-pick basil. Well, by the time we got home the basil was already looking pretty wilted, probably due to the 95 degree weather. So my husband looked around online to see what he could make with it right away, and this is the recipe he decided to try. You don't really need a recipe...just mix a bunch of chopped basil and garlic into butter. The linked recipe calls for using a food processor. That's too much work. Just slightly soften some butter in the microwave, or in this heat, just leave the butter sitting on your counter for half an hour before making the recipe.

We've made similar recipes with other herbs in the past. My favorite is to mix garlic, rosemary, chives, and parsley together, which happen to be the herbs growing in my garden. You can try it with any herbs you have on hand, though.

Herbed butter is surprisingly versatile. You can melt it over lightly steamed vegetables to add some extra flavor. If you added garlic to your butter, you can use it to make a delicious herbed garlic bread. You can add it to mashed potatoes for some extra zip. You can put it over corn on the cob. But let's be honest: mostly, ours gets snacked on, spread on crackers or bread, until there's not enough left to do anything else with it.

And if you're feeling especially pioneer-ish, you can even make your own butter. It's surprisingly easy, and fun for kids (and adults, too. In fact, adults are usually more intrigued than the kids in my experience). I posted directions over on my blog a few months ago, so head on over there if you feel like shaking, shaking, shaking.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mixed Squash on the Barbie

Is there anything better than fresh summer squash? I love it, and have loved getting a few new varieties to try from our CSA this year. I've been experimenting with quick, simple ways to prepare delicious squash side dishes, and I've found one that has become a favorite in our house. The best part is it can be cooked outside on these hot days!

As with many recipes, quantities here are footloose and fancy-free...adjust them to your own tastes or what you happen to have on hand. That said, here's how I made it:

Approx. 2 lbs of squash, I used patty pan and crookneck since that's what we'd gotten at our CSA
1 red onion
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme (I'd probably use more in the future, but that's all we had)
Zest from 1/2 a lemon

Dice squash into bite-sized pieces large enough not to fall through the holes of a grill basket. There's no need to peel them; just wash the skin well. Dice onion into similar sized pieces. In a large bowl, stir together all the ingredients. If it seems too dry, add some additional olive oil and vinegar.

Transfer squash to a grill basket. Grill over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until squash are fork-tender (but not mushy).

Alternately, you could cut large slices of big squash and grill directly on the grate. Or you could wrap all the veggies inside a double layer of grill foil and steam them directly on the grill. Or you could cook it in a pan on the stove. Or if you wanted to pay a lot of attention to it, you could even stick it under the broiler. You have a lot of options, but if you have a grill basket, that's probably the easiest.

Enjoy, and just keep repeating that you can never have too much squash!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Kale and Bean Soup

I followed this recipe for Kale and Bean soup fairly closely.

We thought it wasn't quite soupy enough. I'd probably add more liquid, or less kale in the future. Even so, it was good. TK and I agreed it was a really hearty meal and very filling.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A whole bunch of recipes!

I love vegetables, but I've found that I'm pretty tame in what I buy: if I'm at the store, I get what I know. Zucchini, green beans, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions. I love that the CSA is forcing me to branch out a bit. One of the vegetables we got that I had no idea how to prepare was kohlrabi. Honestly, I don't think I've ever even SEEN kohlrabi in the grocery store. I searched around online and found a recipe that appealed to me: kohlrabi and carrots in honey butter sauce. I figured, carrots: good. Honey: good. Butter: good.

The recipe was simple and I followed it pretty closely (although for some unknown reason, I halved the kohlrabi and carrots amounts but forgot to half everything else so it ended up a bit soupy. Operator error on that one but easily corrected as I just used a slotted spoon to remove the carrots and kohlrabi).

It was tasty, but somehow wasn't quite outstanding. The carrots were better than the kohlrabi. I'm not sure if I don't love kohlrabi, or if this just wasn't the best dish to showcase it, but I'd probably try a different recipe if we get kohlrabi again.


Next it was time for the beets. I must admit, I'm not a beet fan. I've mainly had them at salad bars and have come to conclude they're just there to fill out the salad bar without the restaurant having to worry that anyone would actually want to eat them. But, as always, I'm game to give something a try.

I got my inspiration from this recipe to match roasted beets with goat cheese. However, I thought this was a bit fussy with cutting everything into perfect rounds and having different oils and vinaigrettes and glazes. And I didn't have two different kinds of beets...just the golden ones. And I'm probably admitting to my pedestrian tastes, but I'm just not a big fan of towers of food. That's just weird in my admittedly non-gourmet opinion to have stacked food, unless it's a club sandwich.

So I just tossed the beets in a few tablespoons of olive oil, put them in a baking dish covered with aluminum foil, and baked them at 350 degrees for about an hour (for my small beets) until a toothpick easily pierced the center. You can peel them after they've been roasted (and cooled a bit). The skin just peels off with your fingers.

I sliced the beets thinly and alternated them with slices of herb and garlic goat cheese. (As an aside, the goat cheese was local as well, from Westfield Farm. It was outstanding cheese!)

My final vote: it was pretty good. I'm not a huge beet fan, but the goat cheese/beet combination was perfect. TK thought this was incredible, but he likes beets far more than I do. Three year old twins: liked the goat cheese, wouldn't try the beets.


As we were picking up the beets, the guy working the distribution mentioned that beet greens were delicious. Darn it, now I have no excuse for not cooking them!

I found a recipe for preparing beet greens (or kale, or collard greens) that used vinegar and bacon. Hey, that sounds good to me! As an aside, have I mentioned my theory of preparing these odd, new (to me) vegetables, or vegetables I haven't liked in the past? I try to pick a recipe that includes an ingredient I like. Goat cheese, bacon, honey...something familiar that I know I'll like.

Here's a link to the recipe I used. I made some changes, though, fairly significantly altering quantities:


Green from 5 beets
1/2 large onion, finely diced
2 strips of bacon
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
Sprinkle red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar


Wash beet greens, remove thick stems, and tear leaves into bite sized pieces. Set aside.

Fry bacon until crispy and set aside on paper towels to drain.

Add onions to the bacon grease and cook over medium heat until slightly translucent. Add the garlic, stir, then add the water, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Stir in the greens and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes (the original recipe calls for 30 minutes if you're using kale or collard greens). Add the vinegar, cook for about 1 minute, then you're done! (The original recipe is a little unclear; if you're using kale or collard greens you may have to cook for an additional 20 or so minutes....basically, if you're using kale or collard greens, you should probably just head on over to the original recipe linked above).

Place the greens on a plate and garnish with crumbled bacon.

These were interesting. It was definitely my first time eating beet greens. They were sweet and sour; a touch spicy and a hint salty. That sounds like a lot of competing flavors, and it kind of was. But somehow it worked. TK and I cleaned this up...there wasn't a bite left. At the end of dinner, we even ate the little bits we'd put on the boys plates that they had totally ignored. Well, except for picking the bacon off to eat.


If you look closely at the picture of the beet greens, you can see in the background that we had quinoa with it. In the last 3 minutes of cooking the quinoa, I tossed in some spinach. It was a great addition and a good way to use up some of that spinach. I'm not even going to include a recipe...just cook the quinoa however you normally do (or follow the directions on the bag/box if you don't normally prepare quinoa), then toss in some chopped spinach. Yum!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Raw salsa

I'm desperate for the tomato season to start. Is there anything better than fresh tomatoes? Those things they try to pass off in the supermarket as tomatoes hardly fulfill my craving for this delightful fruit. But I'll admit it: I cheat. I buy hothouse tomatoes from Maine. I get grape tomatoes from California. I'll even resort, in the dead of winter, when the cravings are too overwhelming, to those mealy faux-tomatoes at Stop and Shop.

In our last CSA pick up, we got PURPLE scallions that I was pretty excited about. And what is the best thing to make with scallions? SALSA! Yes. Shh, don't tell the tomatoes growing at the farm, but I cheated on them. I just couldn't wait. I mean, I had the scallions, I have cilantro in my herb garden that is huge and already flowering. Thank goodness for those greenhouses in Maine, getting me my tomato fix.

I make a very simple, fresh salsa. All raw, very bright, uncluttered flavor. I make it with nothing spicy so my boys will eat it. It is one of the few relatively healthy foods they'll eat, so I keep it plain and find it's still outstanding. However, if we get some hot peppers later this summer in our CSA share, I'll probably toss some in for TK and I to enjoy. Here's the recipe:


Tomatoes (any kind...I've even made it with halved grape tomatoes)
Diced jalepenos or other hot peppers, or tobasco sauce (optional, I usually omit so my kids will eat it).


You may notice this recipe lacks quantities. Can I say it's all to taste? Well, I'm going to! But, I'll try to give some hints here in the directions.

Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze out seeds. You can use your finger to squish some out, or even just gently squeeze the tomato. You don't have to perfectly get all the seeds out. In fact, if I use grape tomatoes, I don't even bother seeding them. You just don't want your salsa to be drippy with seeds.

Dice the seeded tomatoes.

Finely slice the whites (or purples in my case) of the scallions. Reserve the green part for something else! I would say as a rule of thumb, if you're using medium sized tomatoes, you'll want to use one scallion for every two tomatoes. Or more or less, depending on your taste.

Chop some cilantro leaves. How much? Oh, it depends on how much you like it. I use a few sprigs for each tomato, then add more if I feel like it needs it.

Mix the tomatoes, scallions, and cilantro leaves, then start adding the salt. I use a salt cracker (actually, I let my boys add it), so I just keep tasting. It does take a bit of salt, and I don't like my food very salty. I've made it with very little salt, but I find it's the salt that really makes the flavors of the salsa pop. So be guided by your own taste buds on this one.

Eat immediately. We rarely have leftovers, but you can store it for a day or two. You'll probably have to drain off some excess water if you keep it in the fridge overnight, but it still tastes wonderful.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lots of recipes

We started out this CSA week with a big winner: Garlic Scape Pesto. I followed the recipe given there. Well, mostly. Oh, heck, you know I made a few changes:


7 garlic scapes, chopped into approx. 2" pieces
Fresh parsley (I'd guess about 2 tablespoons chopped, but I didn't chop it since it was just going into the food processor, so I'm really not sure)
3/4 cup olive oil
scant 1 cup Parmesan cheese


Put the garlic scapes, parsley, and olive oil into a food processor and process until smooth( doesn't turn out perfectly smooth).

Stir in Parmesan cheese and serve over pasta. I choose gnocchi since it's a favorite with my twins. The pesto turns out very thick, so it was a good match to a heavy pasta.

A quick note about this picture: the sauce turns out to be a delicate green, and I just couldn't get it to show up on the camera. Either the overhead lights or flash blew-out the color too much, or without extra light, it was too shadowy. I took this picture standing near the window, holding the plate at about a 45 degree angle to catch the right natural lighting. All so you could appreciate the green color! Of course, then I was so worried about my food falling off the plate I ended up not getting a great picture anyway. But the color is pretty, isn't it?


Served with the pesto, we had Garlic Scape Bread. Basically it was garlic bread where I used minced garlic scapes in place of garlic powder.

Looks pretty, doesn't it? Well, it wasn't garlicy enough for me. I'd add some extra garlic powder in additon to the scapes if I made this again. The delicate garlic scape flavor was wasted on garlic bread. Oh well. I mean, it was slightly garlicy buttery bread, so it was still yummy, but this won't replace my normal garlic bread recipe!


Here it is, my first big CSA failure. Garlic scape soup. The recipe is all the way at the bottom of the page listed, if anyone wants to waste their garlic scapes on this substandard meal. It was gritty and unfinished tasting. TK and I thought it was a good soup might have been good with some chicken and rice or veggies added. But as it was: uninspired. It doesn't even look good:


But no worries, things quickly turned back in a positive direction. We went strawberry picking with Snickollet (and her kids and friend), plus both moms and baby of Two Moms and Baby. Taking my inspiration from those delightful strawberries and the latest CSA haul, I threw together this salad:

The salad contained spinach, lettuce, radish, purple scallions, hard boiled eggs, and sliced strawberries. What made it really outstanding was the homemade Strawberry Vinaigrette dressing. I followed the linked recipe, except I subbed about 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme for the tarragon, and I forgot about the sugar (oops! That was an unintentional oversight, but I didn't miss it...)


And one last recipe, Roasted Spring Turnips, Snap Peas, and Garlic Scapes.

I found a recipe at a neat blog about eating locally (on the West Coast, but hey, we've got the same stuff here on the East Coast!) and followed the recipe pretty closely. I loved the lemon zest, and I used a lemon pepper herb mix. The garlic scapes were my favorite part as they got a little crispy in some parts and slightly caramelized. Lovely!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Napa Cabbage Salad

And here's a recipe that I made to take to the farm last night. We met another family of twins there and had a little picnic before picking up our share. Very fun! We still had half a head of Napa (Chinese) cabbage from the previous weeks' share, so I decided to throw together a quick Asian salad.

I followed this recipe pretty closely, so just follow the link if you're interested. I omitted the almonds due to food allergies, and didn't miss them. However, if you're not dealing with food allergies, I'd probably leave them in. I also ran short on sesame seeds, and again, it was fine with only about half the recipe amount although given the choice, I'd probably go with the original recipe quantities.

Long story short, the salad was outrageously good. Yum!


Note from 2009: This is one of my favorite recipes from the 2008 CSA season. Mmmm! I just made it again this year with our first head of Napa Cabbage. It was just as good as I remembered!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Chicken Lettuce Wraps and Spinach Artichoke Au Gratin

Chicken Lettuce Wraps:

I very, very loosely followed this recipe. I made quite a few changes and while I was extremely happy with the results, the wraps weren't exactly similar to the P.F. Chang lettuce wraps. So if that's what you're looking for, you might want to go to the original recipe. Having said that, here's my version:


1 lb. ground chicken
4 oz. water chestnuts, minced
6 oz. baby bella mushrooms, minced
1/2 medium onion, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
Splash rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon spicy brown bean sauce**
Lettuce leaves (we used about 2/3 a head of Bibb lettuce)


In a large skillet, brown the ground chicken. When it is about 3/4 of the way done, add the water chestnuts, mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Continue cooking, stirring often, until chicken is browned.

Meanwhile, mix all remaining ingredients (except lettuce) in a small bowl. Stir well.

When the chicken is done, add the sauce you mixed in the small bowl. Stir well to coat all the chicken and let cook for about 2 or 3 minutes until slightly thickened.

Place a spoonful of filling onto a lettuce leaf, then roll the lettuce up.

**As I mentioned previously, the original recipe linked above called for red chile paste, but the only brand I could find had peanuts in it, which is a no-go due to food allergies here. So I got House of Tsang brand spicy brown bean sauce. The final recipe was not quite spicy enough. I'd say either use the red chile paste if you don't have to worry about allergies, or add some red pepper flakes in addition to the brown bean sauce.


Next I tried Fresh Spinach and Artichoke Au Gratin. I wasn't sure how it would come out using fresh, uncooked spinach...most recipes call for the frozen stuff. I almost steamed the spinach or blanched it, but ultimately, laziness ruled the day and I just used raw spinach. Worked out fine! Again, there's a recipe I used as a jumping off point (here), but made some significant changes.

1/3 pound spinach, coarsely chopped
2/3 of a 14 oz. can of artichoke hearts (non-marinated, drained), coarsely chopped
6 oz. cream cheese
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Soften cream cheese and butter in the microwave for about 20 seconds until it can be stirred together.

Mix in artichoke hearts, spinach, and parmesan cheese. Transfer to a baking dish (or just make the whole recipe right in the baking dish from the get-go...that's what I did!)

Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Serve with chips, bread, and/or veggies for dipping.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Spicy Bok Choy

Here I thought I was being so smart, making the dreaded bok choy on a night when I was going out for dinner. Of course I tried it, and wouldn't you know, it was incredible! That was unexpected. I was completely, though pleasantly, surprised. The only problem now is that I'm a little depressed that we got our expected CSA distribution list for the week and there's no bok choy on it. Ah well, maybe spring turnips will be my next true food love...stay tuned!

Oh, the recipe. Here it is. I didn't really make any changes, so just follow the link if you're interested.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chive Flower Omelet

I've never eaten a chive flower. Heck, I've never even seen a chive flower before. They're neat. Really chive-y, but purple and pretty. At our CSA, they suggested we just throw them into a salad. Well, it's a bit too strong for that for me. But, getting some inspiration from this blog (about the only chive flower recipe I found on google), I decided to make an omelet. I adapted a lot of the ingredients to what I had, but left the two biggies the same: eggs and chive flowers.

End result: outstanding! Here's what it looked like:

Want the recipe? Never fear! You can't stop me from reciping. I just made that word up! Ha, ha, spell checker, I don't care that you don't think it's a word!


2 eggs
Splash of milk
1 tablespoon finely diced onion
1/2 clove garlic, finely diced
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives (additional for garnishing if desired)
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh parsley (additional for garnishing if desired)
Petals from one chive flower (additional chive flower for garnishing if desired)
2 tablespoons minced spinach (additional for garnishing if desired)
1/4 cup crumbled feta (additional for garnishing if desired)
2 teaspoons olive oil


Place olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs and milk until lightly frothy. Add chives, parsley, chive flower petals, and spinach. It will be VERY herb-y.

Pour egg mixture into skillet with the onions and garlic. If the onions and garlic collect around the outside, quickly mix them in before the eggs start to set. Or just leave them along the outside.

Cook until eggs are almost set on top. Add feta cheese and cook an additional minute or two.

Slide the omelet out onto a plate, folding in half as it slides out of the pan. Garnish with additional, well, everything. If you'd like.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Shrimp Egg Rolls and Scallops over Wilted Tatsoi

Shrimp Egg Rolls


1 lb precooked shrimp, coarsely chopped
1/2 head Chinese cabbage, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped (I probably should have used a whole head, especially since I have no idea what to do with the other half a head)
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup diced water chestnuts
1 radish, cut into small papersticks (probably could have used 2 radishes...I wasn't sure how it would go but threw it in since I had it)
6 ounces baby bella mushrooms, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
Splash rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
Egg Roll wrappers (I used 12 egg roll wrappers...your mileage may vary depending on how stuffed you make your egg rolls)
Vegetable oil for frying


Heat the sesame and olive oils in a large skillet over medium high heat (oil amounts are approximate). Saute garlic and mushrooms until slightly tender, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, water chestnuts, and radish. Saute an additional 2 minutes. Add the Chinese cabbage, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Stir well until cabbage begins to wilt. Add the shrimp, stir well, then remove from the heat.

Once filling has cooled slightly, fill egg roll wrappers. If you don't know how to do that, no worries. The directions are on the package of egg roll wrappers.

Add about 1/4" oil to a skillet and heat over high heat until a wooden chopstick dipped into the oil causes bubbles to appear. Carefully add egg rolls (there will be spatters unless you're a far better egg roll roller than I am). Turn once the first side has browned. I find it best to use a spatula in one hand and a chopstick in the other to turn the egg rolls. When the other side has browned, remove to paper towel lined plate to drain.


As if that wasn't enough, I also made:

Pan Seared Scallops over Wilted Tatsoi

The wilted tatsoi was really outstanding. I very loosely followed this recipe, except that I only used tatsoi rather than assorted Asian greens. Also, I only had seasoned rice vinegar (which they say specifically not to use), so I used it and omitted the sugar. I added some garlic, because, come on. How could you not use garlic in this? And I just eyeballed all the ingredient quantities since I wasn't using anywhere near the same quantity of greens. Anyway, it was delicious. I'm so glad we decided to try the tatsoi. We had a choice at our CSA of tatsoi or arugula, and I'm really happy we decide to go with the one we'd never heard of.

For the scallops I tried something a little different from my normal bread-and-fry-in-garlic-butter method I employ for most seafood. We had some lemon thyme that I didn't have any plans for, so I used that as my inspiration. I mean, it wasn't a big stretch to pair lemony flavors with seafood, but anyway :)


1 lb sea scallops
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
zest from 1/2 lemon
Oil for frying


Rinse scallops in cold water and remove that little tough piece on the side. I don't know what it's called (anyone want to help me out?) It peels right off, though. Gently pat excess water off with paper towel.

Toss scallops with thyme, lemon pepper, and lemon zest until all scallops are lightly coated.

Add enough oil to thinly coat the bottom of a skillet. Heat over high heat. Add scallops (don't it in two batches if your pan is small). When the bottom of the scallop is lightly seared, turn over and cook the other side until it's seared. I'm hesitant to give cook times as it really depends on the size of your scallops, but it's quick...1 or 2 minutes per side approximately.