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!