Friday, November 13, 2009

With Everything There is a Season

One of the last remaining signs of our vegetable CSA bounty is the wonderful variety of squash currently serving as a centerpiece on our dining room table.

In all of my 29 years, I never knew that some varieties of winter squash, such as butternut, really shouldn't be opened until after the Winter Holidays. Other varieties, such as spaghetti, delicata and other acorn types, while fine during the early fall months, will be better at Thanksgiving! (Thank you to Desiree for sharing that info in the Holiday Brook Farm CSA Newsletter.)

Even knowing this, I couldn't stop myself from cutting into one of the golden yellow spaghetti squash to mix with some local ricotta to make this recipe for - Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta, Sage and Pine Nuts adapted from the Kitchn.

I agree - using fresh ricotta is key to the success of this recipe (that and toasting the pine nuts vs. roasting them until they're on the verge of burning, as I have done below). I found some local ricotta from Calabro, a family owned and operated Italian cheese company. It was out of this world (and I had just enough leftover cheese to make a ricotta pie).

I followed the recipe for this one exactly, so follow the link and give it a try. It's a warm, cheesy, comforting dish for the season and so easy to make with all local ingredients!

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Braised Brussels Sprouts

It's pretty hard to beat plain old roasted brussels sprouts, with a sprinkle of salt (or Borsari!). They're easy...just pop 'em in the oven at 400 degrees for about 30-45 minutes, and they come out so creamy on the inside and completely delicious.

But, this year I'm hosting Thanksgiving for the very first time. I'm pretty excited and am starting to test out some recipes for side dishes. So when I came across this recipe for brussels sprouts braised in heavy cream, with a splash of lemon, I knew I had to try it out. And believe me, it's a winner.




I didn't make any changes, so just follow the link over to Orangette. She waxes poetic about brussels sprouts for far longer than even I could manage...the actual recipe is quite a ways down the post. Oh, and not a big surprise, but her picture is way better than mine.

This may very well be even more delicious than roasted brussels sprouts, but I'm going to force myself not to make it very often as I absolutely couldn't control myself. I'm embarrassed to admit that I ate about 3/4 of this by myself. I was actually glad my kids didn't like it so I could eat theirs. I made this less than a week ago and I can't even remember what else I served for dinner that night; I pretty much just ate tons of brussels sprouts! So good, and on special occasions like Thanksgiving, I'm totally willing to go there and eat sprouts swimming in a whole cup of heavy cream!

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If anyone has any recipe suggestions for Thanksgiving side dishes, I'd love to hear it (bonus points if they use ingredients I can find locally!)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Back to the Basics

Belonging to a CSA doesn't always mean searching for new recipes in which to incorporate unfamiliar ingredients. Sometimes it's a simple as recreating old favorites with local, very fresh ingredients. Try it sometime; I guarantee you'll be pleasantly surprised by the end result! We recently made shepherd's pie with local corn, potatoes and ground pork from Holiday Brook Farm. It was outstanding (and I assure you, it didn't look like this for long).

More recently, I purchased a pork butt roast from Holiday Brook Farm. We've been grilling pork butt steaks throughout the summer and are quite addicted to the wonderful flavor of pastured pork (as well as the health benefits of all that omega 3 and conjugated linoleic acid). This little beauty spent some quality time in my crock pot before landing on a roll in the form of pulled pork. It was outstanding (and that's an understatement). This is the recipe I used, Adapted from Williams-Sonoma's "Food Made Fast: Slow Cooker".

Ingredients:

3 T EVOO
3-4 pound pork butt roast (they call for a boneless pork shoulder)
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup dark molasses
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. each dry mustard, salt and pepper (I used white pepper)
1/2 tsp. paprika
Sandwich rolls, toasted


Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown pork roast evenly on all sides (about 10 minutes); then transfer to crock pot.


Pour off all but 1 T oil in the skillet (I skipped this part); add onion and cook until golden brown (about 5 minutes). Add vinegar; cook stirring to scrape up the browned bits, 2 minutes. Stir in ketchup, molasses, brown sugar and red pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, salt, pepper and paprika. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture starts to bubble, 1 minute. Pour over pork.

Cover crock pot and cook on high for 4-5 hours (may be cooked on low for 8-10). Transfer pork to cutting board and using forks (or your fingers) shred, discarding fat. Return pork to crock pot and stir to mix in sauce (I let it cook another 30-45 minutes). Serve on toasted buns!


I'm a little bit lost without our vegetable CSA. I've got a serious stash of winter squash, some brussel sprouts in the freezer, potatoes and onions in the pantry and carrots in the crisper, but I miss my fresh weekly greens and the camaraderie! Our farm has decided to offer a meat CSA throughout the winter. We have already enrolled and will be picking up our 10-pound share of pork on the first Saturday of each month, so we won't be losing touch with our farm and farmers completely throughout the winter months. I'll also continue to get farm fresh eggs and local yogurt from them.

I have some thoughts on what we'll do for produce in the coming months - I'll share that information with you in a separate post in the coming week as I'd love to hear what you are doing now that CSA and farmers' market season is coming to an end. Until then.....Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sage-Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad

This past Saturday was our last CSA vegetable pick-up of the season. Breaking up's been hard to do (and I'm still not over it). I've loved every minute of our relationship with Holiday Brook Farm. Our family was blessed with many of our seasonal favorites and I've tried things I haven't had since my mother MADE me eat them as a child and have been pleasantly surprised to find I like them, I really like them! Many of the root vegetables in the recipe I'm about to share fall into the latter category.

This recipe, adapted from Serving up the Harvest, was included in our CSA newsletter this week and since we received turnips, rutabagas, onions and celeriac in our pick-up this week and I had some local butternut squash posing as a centerpiece on our table, some beets from the farm in the crisper and some sage hanging in there in our herb garden, I immediately began dicing.

Ingredients:

1 cup wild rice, cooked according to directions (I used chicken bouillon instead of water)

12 cups of peeled (optional) and diced fall veggies such as winter squash, carrots, beets, rutabagas, turnips, parsnips and/or celeriac
1 onion, diced
1 Tab fresh sage, chopped
3 Tab EVOO
Fresh ground pepper

Cranberry Vinaigrette
2 shallots, chopped
1 cup cranberry sauce/jam
2 Tab fruited vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 Tab fresh orange juice
3/4 cup walnut or olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Directions:
Cook wild rice according to instructions. Let cool.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450. Lightly grease a shallow roasting pan with oil (I just tossed the veggies in it and called it a day). Combine the diced fall veggies, onion and sage in a large bowl. Add the oil and toss gently to coat. Transfer to the roasting pan and arrange in a single layer.

Roast for 30-40 minutes stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender and lightly browned.

To make the vinaigrette, finely chop the shallots in a blender. Add the cranberry sauce, vinegar, orange juice and oil and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Combine the roasted veggies and vinaigrette in a large bowl. Add rice and toss gently to mix. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This dish was really out of this world - from the sweet roasted vegetables to the savory rice perfectly married with just a touch of fruity goodness. This one's a keeper and I'll definitely be adding this vinaigrette to some baby spinach with toasted walnuts and dried cranberries to make a scrumptious salad this holiday season!
As you can see, I served it alongside our roasted free range chicken from EarthFire Farm.
Bon Appetit!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The great pumpkin

I love pumpkins. I love the way they look on the front steps, I adore drawing them with my kids, and I especially love the way they make the house smell when I roast them for their gorgeous orange-russet flesh. Yesterday, I updated my Facebook status to say "I'm roasting pumpkins for their flesh. Yes, they're food. And my house smells like Thanksgiving!" (Yes, I post on Facebook. Don't judge me.)
When I first read Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," the passage that made me laugh out loud was the one about the pumpkins. She swears that nobody knows that the decorations in their yard and on their stoop are actually edible. You can read that passage here.
I bought a couple of medium-sized sugar pumpkins, scrubbed them free of dirt, poked them with a sharp knife a few times, put them on a baking sheet, and stuck them in a 375 degree oven for about an hour. I think roasting pumpkins and squash this way is MUCH easier than risking fingers and countertops while wielding a cleaver and mallet.


My little orange friends roasted for about an hour; I tested for doneness by sticking a paring knife in. When the knife slid in with no resistance, I knew the flesh was cooked through and ready to puree. After taking them out and letting them cool for a few minutes, I basically just ripped into them, scooped out the seeds and stringy, goopy insides, and lifted the pieces of roasted flesh out of the skin and directly into the food processor. I pureed the pumpkin in the processor till it was smooth, but decided that the puree was a little watery and would benefit from some draining. I didn't want to lose half of my puree through the holes of my colander, so I made a makeshift filter of sorts, with coffee filters. That did the trick, as the water drained right through but the pumpkin stayed inside.


My two pumpkins yielded about 3 cups of smooth, aromatic puree. Now, what to make? I made the "Easy Pumpkin Cake" recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, "Serving Up the Harvest" by Andrea Chesman. It's a great cookbook and all-around reading book, trust me. It came out terrific. There are any number of pumpkin cake recipes out there, just Google it and it'll come up. One of my friends adds chocolate chips to her pumpkin muffins and cakes. I think I'll do that next time!

I still have about a cup of pumpkin puree in my fridge. I haven't decided on its final destination. Because I've (uncharacteristically) been baking a lot this week, we have a lot of sweets. So definitely, something savory is in order. Another one of my friends uses her pumpkin puree in lasagna. She uses the pumpkin as another layer in between the cheese and the tomato. It adds a bit of sweetness, and of course nutrition, to her hearty lasagna. I might try a pumpkin lasagna without the tomato, instead using a bechamel sauce with a touch of nutmeg. Maybe some sausage--I think the sausage's fatty savoriness would be a good foil for the sweetish pumpkin. And wow, wouldn't it be striking-looking, with the creamy noodles and sauce against the bright pumpkin flesh? Hmm, am I onto something? I'll try this on Monday and report back.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stuffed Delicata Squash

We have a plethora of delicata squash sitting on our counter. It's delicious, but I wanted to try to make it into a main dish. I peeked around at what I had on hand, and this is what I came up with.



Ingredients:

2 delicata squash, halved and seeded
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch swiss chard
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chicken stock (or veggie stock, or even water I'd imagine would be fine)
Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
Olive Oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash cut side down in oven-safe baking dish. Add approximately 1/2 inch of water. Bake for 15 minutes. Flip squash so they are cut side up, and bake until fork-tender (varies widely depending on the size of the squash...let's say 30 minutes). Check occasionally and add more water to the baking dish if too much of the water evaporates.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Cut the thick stems out of the chard leaves, and roughly chop the leaves. Set aside.

In a large skillet, saute the minced garlic in olive oil until lightly browned. Add the chopped swiss chard leaves. Toss until lightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the beans and chicken stock and cook for approx. 10 minutes until chard is tender, stirring occasionally.

Stuff the squash "boats" with the filling, then sprinkle panko breadcrumbs on top and drizzle with some melted butter. Return to the oven and bake until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

__________________

My husband and I both really enjoyed the mixture of the sweet squash with the more savory filling. I would have preferred a larger squash-to-filling ratio, so I think I might try this again with a thicker-fleshed winter squash, like acorn squash.

Carrot Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mmm, sneaky, sneaky carrots! We've been getting tons of carrots at the CSA, so I had to make something sweet with some. This recipe is originally from Taste of Home, with a few minor changes of my own. Plus, I've halved the recipe here so it doesn't make ridiculously huge quantities, as the first time I made it we had approximately 1 zillion cookies. If you have to feed a roving band of teenagers or something, feel free to double it back up.



Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup shredded carrots
2 cups quick cooking oats (I used old-fashioned oats with no problem)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, shortening, sugar, and brown sugar. Beat the eggs and vanilla. Add the carrots; mix well.

Combine the oats, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 3 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Z - Always The Closer

I grew up thinking Zucchini were supposed to be the size of baseball bats. Really. And not only were they BIG, but they were PLENTIFUL! One of my favorite childhood memories (no mom, it's not shelling bottomless baskets of peas on the front porch) is the endless supply of zucchini bread that was available in our house as a result of this bountiful summer squash.

A couple weeks ago, my other half came home with a fine specimen, which immediately took me back to my youth. So I did what any respectable girl from the Grove would have done. I broke out my recipe book and searched for the letter Z; you know the one that's always bringing up the rear.

As we put the summer of 2009 behind us (according to both the calendar, the end of the Red Sox season and my thermometer on this frosty morning) I felt it appropriate to share this recipe with you. So here it is. May it generate as many happy memories for your children as it has for me.

Mom's Zucchini Bread

4 eggs (farm fresh, if possible - mine came from Holiday Brook Farm)
2 cups sugar
Beat until creamy.
Then add:
3 cups zucchini (grated)
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla (I highly recommend Baldwin's)
Mix and add:
3 cups flour (King Arthur)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon (I use more like a Tablespoon)
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 1/2 cups coconut

Makes 2 large or 7 small loaves. Bake for 1 hour @ 350*. I like to sprinkle a little cinnamon & sugar on top before baking.

The perfect accompaniment to your morning coffee or afternoon tea! Try kicking it up a notch by toasting or grilling a slice - YUM!
















Bon Appetit!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Perfect Pork Tenderloin

Those of you who check in regularly have heard me wax poetic about the pastured pork we've been buying from Holiday Brook Farm. We've tried a number of cuts and have loved them all. So when I stumbled upon this recipe for Peach Chipotle Pork Tenderloin over at In Our Grandmothers' Kitchen, I knew I had to try that recipe with their tenderloin.

As I suspected, it was outstanding! I actually made a couple batches of the peach chipotle sauce. The first I made according to the directions (that batch is in the freezer). The second time I used a generous Tablespoon of dark brown sugar and 1/4 cup or so of grade B maple syrup (also from Holiday Brook Farm). That's the batch I used to make the pork tenderloin.

As you can see, I let it carmelize into delectable treat for the senses (okay, maybe not sight, but my sense of smell, taste and touch more than made up for that). This one's a keeper for sure!

I served this with a side of fresh brussel sprouts from our CSA, which were roasted in a touch of extra virgin olive oil and Borsari seasoning. Last, but not least, one of the last, fresh, local ears of corn of the season.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sometimes Less IS More

I'd been staring at a half head of green cabbage in my fridge for nearly a week, trying to decide what I was going to do with it. This was no average cabbage you see - it was the ginormous variety from our CSA....grown with TLC, it was destined for something special.

I spent some time on one of my favorite recipe sites and stumbled upon this recipe for Frizzled Cabbage. A half hour later, I was eating one of the most delicious side dishes I've ever had. Four ingredients - it doesn't get much easier. Okay, maybe I'm over simplifying things. I took creative liberties with the recipe and added a sliced onion to the mix. I also used Borsari in place of salt (with LOTS of black pepper).

This is what my recipe looked like at what would be the finishing point for most people.

I kicked it up another notch and carmelized those veggies just a wee bit more.

This will be a regular dish in our household during cabbage season from now on.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Roasted Turnips

We got some of those little hakurei salad turnips last week in our share, but I wasn't making salad so I decided to try something a little different. I love root vegetables roasted, so I tossed these in the oven. Pretty good, though my husband was a far bigger fan than I was.




Ingredients:

5 fairly good sized hakurei turnips (about 1 1/2 cups diced), diced
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste (I think in the future I'd just throw some peeled garlic cloves right on the pan with the turnips!)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Place diced turnips in a large oven safe dish or jelly roll pan
Stir together remaining ingredients
Drizzle butter mixture over turnips, stir to coat.

Cook until fork-tender and browned, stirring occasionally. I'm not going to give you a time as it depends on how small you diced the turnips, but I'd start checking after 20 minutes, though it took me 40 minutes to cook mine.

They come out a nice blend of sweet with a touch of sour from the vinegar. A nice side dish, and something a little different then the way I usually eat them, raw in a salad.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Yogurt--it's not just for hippies anymore

It's cooking season again, as my husband says. I made yogurt yesterday; I made it regularly for a while, but took the summer off. I guess I wasn't looking for rich dairy products in the hot weather.
Dusted off the yogurt maker--yup, I do it the easy way with the little glass jars instead of the way my doctor makes it, in a chipped earthenware bowl, on the counter, wrapped in a sweater that gives it just the right amount of warmth. When I told her I had a yogurt maker, she basically called me a wimp. Whatever--I wasn't gonna argue with her--she knows my darkest secrets!

I guess the biggest issue with making yogurt is the milk. It's got to be processed by the dairy at lower temperatures than the supermarket milk--can't be "ultra-pasteurized." The higher-temp flash pasteurization kills all the good microbes and your yogurt will never set up. Luckily, we can get just that kind of milk locally at Shaw Farm in Dracut. They do the lower-temp pasteurization, not the flash kind, and it makes lovely, tangy yogurt. I'd love to get my hands on some raw milk, but the germ-phobes around here won't let anyone sell it. Julie, I know your neck of the woods has some places you can procure it, sometimes surreptitiously if you say it's for your cats!
I also use a powdered yogurt culture, as in the past I've used already-made yogurt for my culture, and it's hit and miss whether the new batch'll set up.

The Girl helped me with the yogurt-making, and she was surprised that it mainly consists of boiling the milk, cooling it a bit, mixing the culture, and pouring it into the jars. Then it's into the yogurt-maker for 12 hours. If you do this in the morning, you can put the jars in the fridge overnight and have fresh yogurt for breakfast. That's what we all did this morning.
Let me tell you, it's tangy. Definitely not like the candy-flavored yogurt my kids used to clamor for (bubble gum? Are you KIDDING me?) but so good with honey or jam mixed in. Plus it's healthy for your, ...um, ...how do I say, your innards. Eat a jar of this stuff every morning and you'll be talking about your happy colon on national TV just like Jamie Lee Curtis. :)

Butternut Squash Soup

One of my favorite fall/winter dishes is butternut squash soup. I don't have a picture yet as we haven't gotten any butternut squash from our CSA this year, but I'm posting this recipe for my sister-in-law.

I originally got this recipe from my other sister-in-law, who made it for Thanksgiving a few years back. I've been making it ever since!

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons honey
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Approx. 3 lbs butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 yellow onions, peeled and quartered
1 or 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, and cored (okay to use other varieties of apples, though tart, firm apples are best)
5 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup half and half
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pistachios (I put them in a ziplock, squeeze the air out and seal, then pound them with a mallet) OPTIONAL
Balsamic vinegar OPTIONAL

Preheat oven to 450.

In a small bowl, stir together honey and oil. Arrange squash, onion, and apples on a rimmed cookie sheet. Brush the cut side of the squash and all the onion and apples with the honey mixture. Bake, until tender and well browned, approx 1 hour. Remove from oven, let cool.

Scoop out squash and add the squash, onion, and apple to a large soup pot over medium heat. Add stock, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Partially cover and cook until very tender, approx. 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

****NOTE: you can stop here and put it in the refrigerator for a day if you'd like*****

In a blender or food processor, puree soup in batches until smooth. Return to pot and place over medium heat. Stir in half and half and bring to a simmer.

Serve with pistachios sprinkled on top. Or, if you're dealing with nut allergies (or just want to try something a little different), it's also good with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar swirled on top of each bowl. Though quite honestly, the pistachios are better, says the mom of the kid with a severe pistachio allergy! So it's balsamic vinegar in our house...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New CSA

First, an apology: whoa, I haven't posted in a while! For those of you who don't read my personal blog, I have a pretty good excuse--we welcomed our 3rd child five weeks ago. As I'm sure none of you are shocked to hear, not much imaginative cooking is getting done in our house. We've been eating a lot of salads (and sandwiches and bowls of cereal!). Don't worry, I have been doing some cooking, relying on tried-and-true recipes, like Jules' sausage kale soup, roasted garbanzo beans with swiss chard, and of course chocolate zucchini cake!

The other big exciting change in our lives is that we moved (4 days before lil' Z-man was born, but that's a whole 'nother story!). It's been great, except one thing: we're really too far away from our CSA at our new house. We've belonged to Waltham Fields Community Farm for the past two years, and I can't even tell you how awesome it's been. I absolutely love, love, love them! But now it takes nearly an hour to get there, sometimes more like an hour and a half if I'm fighting rush hour traffic. They've pushed up their renewals from January to October (now!!), so I was forced to make a decision with heavy heart not to renew our share.

So now I have to decide what to do for next summer. I'm looking into CSAs in the Nashoba Valley area (basically, anywhere kind of near 495 between Rte 3 and Rte 2, or even southern New Hampshire in the general vicinity of Nashua). I've been looking at Bear Hill Farm (Lisa, I hope you'll chime in!), and Dragonfly Farm, plus a few others I saw on Local Harvest. Anyone have any recommendations for me?

Alternately, I could just plan to shop the farmers' markets next summer. That supports local farms as well and may work better with the little man's nap schedule (whatever that ends up being!) than a shorter pickup window with a CSA. Plus, there's generally a wider selection at farmers' markets...things like bread, cheese, eggs, meat, fish, and fruit. I don't know, though; I really like the set up of a CSA.

It might be moot. I might pick a CSA and end up waitlisted for next summer anyway. But now's the time to start thinking.

Anyway, any opinions would be welcome, and I should be back with recipes soon!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Colorful Corn Salad

I grew up in a family where the parental units believed that the only way to eat corn is to put a pot of water on to boil just prior to racing out to the garden to harvest what you need. You then race back to the house, shuck it and drop it into the pot! Fortunately, we live right around the corner from a sweet little farm stand (which operates by the honor system - I just love that), so I'm able to eat my sweet corn pretty close to the fashion in which I'm accustomed. During August and September, corn is pretty much a staple in our household.

This recipe was passed on to me by my friend, Megan, who was raving about it as we were talking about our respective picnic menus for the James Taylor concerts at Tanglewood.

I picked up some corn at Bittersweet Farm, grabbed some cherry tomatoes and honey from The Bradley Farm at our local farmers' market and snipped some cilantro as part of our CSA share at Holiday Brook Farm and followed these instructions exactly.

Grill 4 or 5 ears of corn brushed with olive oil until they are nice and charred. Slice corn off the cob and combine it with one pint of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half and 4-5 avocados cubed.

Whisk together 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 1 Tablespoon of honey, the juice of two lines and 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. Add a handful of chopped cilantro and pour over veggies. Chill and serve.

I felt a couple slices of toasted pepperoni bread from Blossoming Acres (one of my favorite vendors at the aforementioned farmer's market)was the ideal accompaniment; I was right.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Perfect Peach Pound Cake















I knew the moment I "met" Tinky that ours was a most special relationship. Her wit, her style, her love and support of local farmers/producers......her recipes!

Yesterday I went to our local farmers' market specifically to pick up some peaches so I could make her summer peach pound cake. I followed her recipe exactly and man, oh man. The combination of buttery goodness and succulent peaches....let's just say it's no coincidence it's called pound cake. You could easily pack on the pounds with this one!

If you have never visited Tinky's blog, do yourself a favor and stop on by.




Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

All American Apple Pie


Apple picking is one of my favorite fall activities and we are fortunate to live near Barlett's orchard which features fantastic views, a large variety of apples (within H-man's reach) and world famous cider donuts. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but I dare you to stop by for a warm batch some morning and argue the fact with me.

We've actually been known to go apple picking three, four, even five times a season as different varieties ripen and become available for picking.
Labor Day the H-man and I headed out for some Paula Reds and Jonamacs (and some pick your own raspberries).

As soon as we got home, I selected a few tasty looking morsels and settled in to make a pie. But oh, which recipe to follow? Should I go with (what was) my favorite pie recipe, handed down to me by my BFF's mother? Or should I venture out on a limb and try something new? I opted for the latter and dug out my wrinkled copy of this apple pie recipe from King Arthur. The exception being the crust. My mom makes a mean crust and if it ain't broke, why fix it...so this is how I make my crust.

Pie Crust (Recipe courtesy of Betty aka Julie's mom)
2 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
1 cup crisco
Mix together and add:
1 T vinegar (I like to use cider vinegar)
1 egg
3 T. cold water

Fold the dough over and over to bring it all together. Once it's completely mixed, divide it in half. Pat into two disks of equal size (I like to do this on parchment paper).

Roll each disc on its edge, like a wheel, to smooth out the edges (this is a King Arthur trick). This will ensure your dough will roll out evenly, without a lot of cracks and splits at the edges.

Roll out one disc to circle that's large enough to overlap the rim of your pie pan by an inch all the way around (if you're not sure how to judge that, place your pie pan upside down on your rolled out crust to get an idea of whether you're finished rolling.....or not). Repeat for top crust.

This recipe turned out FANTABULOUS (just ask my waistline) and will be my new "go to" apple pie recipe. Be sure to check out King Arthur's boiled cider . I'm convinced it takes and "okay pie" and pushes it over the top to the best. pie. ever. Try it! I bet you'll never make another pie without it.

I've got another apple recipe all dusted off and ready to go. Cortlands will be ready this weekend too. Coincidence? I think not.

What is YOUR favorite apple recipe and how did it find it's way into your recipe box?














Bon Appetit!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Harvest Soup

As I commented on Lisa's post below, the cool, crisp days of autumn move me to cook. Okay, okay, before someone points out to me that the official start of autumn is still a week away, let me go on record as saying I know it's not here yet, but it feels like it is and that's the only excuse I need.

Last weekend I found our fridge/pantry loaded with kale, sweet link sausage, garlic, tender young leeks, fresh potatoes and free range chicken stock. If you've never had free range chicken, I have to say - "what ever are you waiting for?" Once you discover what chicken is really supposed to taste like, you will be hard pressed to buy chicken from your local grocer, but I digress.

I decided these ingredients were begging (yes, the food in our household often speaks to me) to be combined into a soup for the soul that would be greater than the sum of it's parts. Who was I to begrudge them their final wish? And so I began....

I tossed a few cloves (3-4) of chopped garlic, 4 tender, young leeks (again, chopped) and sliced sausage (casing removed) into a stock pot. In the meantime, I quickly chopped a few potatoes (probably 1 1/2 cups worth) into bite-size chunks and tossed them into the pot. The sausage (from pastured pork raised at Holiday Brook Farm alongside the veggies in this soup) was pretty lean so I actually had to add a bit of butter to the mixture to get the potatoes to brown. Then I added a healthy dose of kale (probably 3-4 cups loosely packed) torn into bite-sized pieces with stems removed, along with a cup or so of chicken stock. Once the kale began to wilt, I added another 3 cups or so of chicken stock. I let this simmer for a while...maybe 30 minutes or so, then tossed in a can of white beans. I really debated on whether to do that, since everything else was sourced locally, but it just needed the beans.

This honestly was one of THE best soups I've ever made. Much of that was, I'm sure, due to fabulous, fresh ingredients. But I'm also going to take a little credit for the recipe. The photo below doesn't even begin to do it justice, but here it is. This one's for you, Meg!















Bon Appetit!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Zucchini overflow

Seriously, what to do with more zucchini?! It's an every-summer problem that has plagued mankind for decades...OK, it has plagued me, at least, for 5 years. I ran across a couple of recipes the other day for zucchini relish. Like sweet pickle relish, but with, well, you know. Wow, good way to "get rid of" some of those green goblins sitting on my counter and in the crisper.
Again, as is my habit, I took a survey of the recipes out in the web-o-sphere and then took the best parts of the ones I liked to make my own.

It was very easy--chop, mix, heat, stir. I also added the extra "preserve" step, but you don't really have to do that, if you're going to eat most of it soon, or keep one jar for yourself and give the rest away with the priviso that the recipients keep it in the fridge and eat it within a month.

The amounts listed here make about four half-pint jars, but as always you can scale it up with no problems. I wouldn't double or triple the hot pepper flakes, though.

I roughly chopped about 3 medium zucchini, a medium onion, and one bell pepper (I used red for color), and then ran it through the food processor. The initial rough chop helps to keep the processor chop uniform. Put the mixture in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons salt to draw out the water in the vegetables. Let them stand about an hour or so. Drain the water off and then rinse the chopped vegs. and drain well again. Combine about a cup and a half of sugar, 1 to 2 teaspoons celery seed, 1 teaspoon mustard seed, and a cup of cider vinegar in a saucepan. Add a pinch of hot red pepper flakes, or however much heat you want. I bet you could also add one small, finely minced jalapeno pepper to your vegetable mixture if you like it really hot and really sweet. Bring this mixture to a boil. Add the chopped, drained vegetables, stir, and simmer about 10 minutes.

If you are going to simply refrigerate the relish, cool it off a bit before putting it in your containers, some to keep, and some to give away. If you are going to can it, pack your hot relish into your hot prepared half-pint jars, leaving about a quarter-inch of headspace, and put on your lids and rings. Process 10 minutes in your boiling-water canner. Let sit overnight without jostling and make sure your lids have the concave-vacuum seal.


I haven't tried the relish on my hot dogs yet, but we did make tartar sauce (mix w/mayo) for our fish sticks the other night and it was excellent--tasted just like real sweet pickle relish! So...another solution for those green monstrosities on our counters.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What moves you to cook?


I know, I'm hardly the first to blog about this subject, but we saw the movie "Julie and Julia" recently and it really got me thinking. I'd read both of the books on which the movie is based; loved them both, lent them to friends, etc. I really enjoyed the movie, and so did my husband. We came out of the movie inspired to cook even more.

The following day I decided to go get some delicious late-summer strawberries that my local farm grows and make a strawberry tart from Julia's original "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." I've had both volumes for years and have cooked a number of French recipes from them, but I'd never made any desserts. I'm just not the dessert person. Eating it, yes; making it, no. The tart came out pretty good, I think. It wasn't picture-perfect, but my family didn't mind--they gobbled it nonetheless.

Now, I won't reprint the "Tarte aux Fraises" recipe here--anybody with a search engine can find that. I'm not trying to show off my mad cooking skills (OK, Deb, stop laughing, maybe just a little). And I'm not saying that everybody has to run to the kitchen and make a difficult pastry. I've made tarts I've liked just as much from bought pie crust, pudding, and fruit. I'm just saying that I was inspired to cook something out of my comfort zone by someone who wrote something long before I was born.

My point: What are you inspired to cook? What moves you to cook--maybe a change of seasons, a book, a movie, a cooking show on TV? I'd be really interested to hear...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Family Friendly Food

I can't believe it's been (gulp) weeks since I've posted. A constant stream of company (yes, mom and dad, I'm blaming this partially on you - ha, ha) and an uncooperative USB port on our laptop has put a damper on my usual banter.

Now that things have settled down a bit ('though I still need to address the USB issue), I hope to be back to our regularly scheduled programming!
With the fabulous variety of local fruits and vegetables that are available right now, I've been cooking up a storm and have a lot to share!

We're fortunate (knock wood) that the H-man is a pretty decent vegetable eater. At least when it comes to the usual suspects such as cucumbers, peas, green beans, broccoli, asparagus and corn. I love the fact that he's exposed to new and unusual veggies through our CSA (as well as new and unusual varieties of his favorites).

He's not a huge meat eater, although he is getting better, but I'm told that's pretty normal for a four year old. Pasta on the other hand......he would live on it if I let him! One of our favorite family meals is pasta with garlic, broccoli (sometimes chicken) doused in olive oil, a dash of salt and lots of fresh ground pepper. I was recently able to make this dish with local garlic, broccoli and leftover meat from our first roasted free range chicken (which was beyond delicious). Here's what I do. Note: it's not exactly gourmet cuisine, but I know from talking to friends with toddler to pre-school aged children, finding new and nutritional items to add to your repertoire can sometimes seem daunting.

Prepare enough of your favorite pasta for one family meal, plus some extra for leftovers. During the homestretch of the boiling phase (the last 3-5 minutes or so), toss in broccoli, which has been cut into florets (I add 1-2 cups of broccoli for 1/2 pound or so of pasta).

In the meantime, saute several sliced cloves of garlic in a couple Tablespoons of EVOO. Toss in chicken (I've used raw chicken tenderloins or breast as well as leftovers from a roasted chicken here - both work, you just need to adjust your cooking time accordingly).

Once you drain the pasta/broccoli combo, toss it into the chicken, garlic, EVOO mixture and cook until the flavors meld (we like our pasta to saute a bit too).

Serve it up and watch it disappear!
Bon appetit.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Channeling Provence: A New England Ratatouille

As the weeks go by and summer becomes late summer (and soon to be fall - yikes!), our CSA shares change with the harvest. For the first time this past week, we got eggplant in our shares. Naturally, being raised in a suburban wonderland where all pizza places bread, fry and dump marinara sauce on their eggplant, I thought of eggplant parmigiana.

I pulled out Joy of Cooking, found the eggplant section and flipped to the page for eggplant parmigiana. And right next to that recipe was the recipe for ratatouille provencale. I must admit that I did not know that ratatouille had eggplant in it. I've seen the movie but I guess I wasn't paying very close attention. I decided I should try something new and give the recipe a try. Sorry, eggplant parm.

Looking it over, it's easy to see why this is such a classic French summer dish. In addition to the eggplant, it incorporates zucchini, bell pepper, tomatoes, garlic, onions and herbs. New England seems to have this in common with Provence because I was able to find almost all the ingredients I needed at the farmer's market. This dish may be French in conception but can be wonderfully local here in Massachusetts.

There are so many versions of this recipe and as long as you respect the basic concept (layering of the summer garden flavors), you will be pleased with the results. I broke with tradition and added some soft, creamy, crumbled chevre on top. Again, more French inspiration, locally sourced!

Bon Apetit!

-Nicole

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lamenting

Call me pollyanna, but I'm still refusing to believe "the farm" is going to lose it's entire tomato and potato crop. Even though, "some of the potato varieties are dying and the tomatoes don't look that good" (Desiree's words). And all of the surrounding farms have lost their crops to Late Blight. Sigh.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tomatoes with a Twist

Amanda Cather's newsletter on late blight literally brought goosebumps to my arms and tears to my eyes. This small glimpse into what many of our ancestors were up against as they settled this great land overwhelms me. At that time, a regional disaster such as this could mean the difference between life or death for members of a family, which made their living off of the land. It's really scary when you think about that.

I'd like to think we've come a long way in some regards. While I cringe at the devastation late blight has caused (and will continue to cause) in the surrounding region this year, I hope that by participating in a CSA (and/or supporting local farmers at farm stands or farmers' markets) we are ensuring that said farms (and future generations of those who run them) are here tomorrow.
Having said all that....I've been harboring this post since WhataCard posted about her disappointment at the total loss of her CSA's tomato crop. I kind of felt like I was sitting her (safely 2.25 hours away from WaC) saying nonny, nonny, boo, boo as I dined on these delectable treats. I've given it a lot of thought since then and finally came to the conclusion that if ever there were a time to rejoice in the glorious bounty we receive from this great earth, this is one of those times. So without further adieu.....

Tomatoes with Mint

This is a bit of a twist on the usual tomato, basil and mozzarella salad. My parents were visiting last week and brought us a large bag of cherry tomatoes from their garden. After eating them in salads for a few days, I sliced the remaining red morsels in half, tossed them with some fresh mint from the garden and sprinkled a little sugar on top. This is VERY refreshing (especially on a hot, humid summer day).

One of my other favorite combinations is sliced tomatoes and chunks of Great Hill Blue Cheese, a local favorite, drizzled with A.O.C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Valle des Baux in Provence sourced from Bizalions in Great Barrington, MA and sprinkled with fresh ground salt and pepper. Add a loaf of your favorite bread and a bottle of wine......

Bon Appetit!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer Squash in Coconut Milk, plus, the risk side of the CSA

I didn't take a picture last night, but here's YASSR (Yet Another Summer Squash Recipe...with all the squash, can we ever have too many recipes??) I found this recipe written on the board at the CSA pick up this week, and decided to try it when I got home. Quick, easy, yummy!

Ingredients:

3 or 4 medium sized summer squash (any varieties)
8 or so leaves of fresh Thai (purple) basil
A few sprigs of fresh parsley
A small handful of fresh cilantro
About half a can of coconut milk
Pinch of salt

Directions:

Cut the squash into bite-sized pieces.

Chop up all the herbs. Chiffonade, anyone? I just jammed all the other herbs inside the basil, rolled it up, and chopped!

Add the squash and herbs to a frying pan, and pour enough coconut milk to cover the bottom of the pan completely.

Cook over medium heat until done to your liking. Season with a little salt.

Quite tasty, easy, and a little different from the normal ways I prepare squash!

_____________________

And on the flip side, I wanted to talk for a minute or two about the inherent risk of a CSA. Part of what I like about a CSA is that it's a *SHARE* of a harvest. If there's a good harvest, presumably you'll get a good share size. But if it's a bad harvest, well, you might not get such a big share.

This year, our CSA is taking a huge hit: tomatoes. We probably won't get any. They were hit by late blight. It's not just our CSA, it's throughout the northeast, so I'm guessing many of you reading are in the same situation, with tomatoes and/or potatoes affected.

I won't lie...it's a disappointment. But I'm glad I belong to a CSA, where the loss of a huge crop like tomatoes means just that: disappointment. Presumably not something that leads to the demise of a farm.

Our latest CSA newsletter had a great article about losing the tomatoes. Tammy at Food on the Food has reprinted it on her blog. Worth a read (not to mention sticking around and peeking at the rest of her blog...it's wonderful, and the first blog I started reading way back when I first got interested in eating locally.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Buckets o'blues

Blueberries are my favorite fruit, not only to eat, but especially to cook. You don't have to peel them, like apples; you don't have to pit them AND peel them, like peaches; and you don't have to wait for the eeexxaaccttt right moment of ripeness to use them, like pears. Blueberries are happy to wait for you in the fridge, content to hang out till you're ready to use them.
My family picked pounds--like, 12 of 'em--of blueberries the other day at a pick-your-own in the next town over. We met just about everybody we knew there, doing the same thing we were: Greedily stocking up on an incredible taste that would be around for just a few weeks. My kids have heard this so often in the last couple of years that they finish the sentence for me now: "Now that we've preserved these, we can get them out in the middle of winter and..." And the kids chime in: "We'll have a taste of summer!"
What did we do with these pounds of berries? Pie, of course (blueberry pie's the fave for breakfast around here), berries and cream, some nice cobbler, and just a bowl of the sweet things on the table at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Oh, and the blueberry jam I was threatening to make. Double batch, reduced-sugar recipe, lids and rings, real canned jam. Absolutely delicious--even my jam-shy husband has been eating it by the spoonful. I used a special type of pectin that my friend Deb researched and ordered (www.pomonapectin.com). Instead of the supermarket-pectin recipe, which uses 6 cups of fruit and 7 cups of sugar, the reduced-sugar kind calls for 8 cups of fruit and anywhere from 1 to 4 cups of sugar. I split the difference and used about 3 of sugar. Now, I'm not the sugar police, not even close (just look in my cabinets), but when I eat jam I want to taste fruit!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The good and the bad

You want to hear something really neat? My CSA featured my recipe for zucchini pancakes in their newsletter! How cool and awesome are they? It is a really yummy way to have zucchini! I mean, almost as good as zucchini brownies!

Now the bad: they linked in the recipe incorrectly, so the blog is getting tons of hits to "page not found".

So, I figured I'd post the link here, in case anyone makes it from the CSA newsletter to our main blog page. Enjoy, and feel free to poke around the other recipes...there's a list of ingredients you can choose on the right side of the page. If anyone's visiting here from Waltham Fields Community Farm, welcome!

Lotsa lettuce

(Whoops, sorry about previous post. I was trying to "paste" and did the keyboard command for "post" instead.)
Seems like we're swimming in lettuce these days. We got some from our CSA, our friend brought us some from her garden, and I can't seem to resist the lovely furled heads at the Farmers' Market. The Husband and I can only eat so much salad, and The Boy and The Girl aren't much for the lettuce. All the other crunchy vegetables you'd put on a salad--tomatoes, cukes, peppers, pea pods--they gobble up, but they haven't yet gotten a taste for lettuce. I was looking for a way to use my surplus and ran a good one: It's all over the web, under such various names as "Asian Lettuce Wraps" and "Meat Rolls." My lovely non-PC children call it "Chinese Tacos." Actually, I think it's more akin to meals I've had in Korean restaurants, what with the dolloping, the garnishing, the wrapping.
All I know is that it's a good thing I bought extra lettuce at the Farmers' Market, because my kids, under the guise of Chinese Tacos, snarfed an ENTIRE head of lettuce, forcing me to hop up and wash/spin another head! It wasn't just an aberration, either; we've had this three times in the last month and each time they eat themselves silly.
The recipe I'm using is kind of cobbled together from a couple I saw, plus a few extra touches of my own. Whatever you call it, it's terrific!
Here's how I've been doing it: Rinse and spin dry a whole head of Bibb or other butter-type lettuce, being careful not to tear them. Brown a pound of ground turkey or pork in a large skillet. When the meat is nearly cooked, add about half a chopped onion and a clove of minced garlic and saute. When onion is cooked, add 1-2 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1/4 cup hoisin sauce, 1-2 tsp. grated ginger root, 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar, and a dash or two of hot sauce (optional). Stir constantly for a few minutes until all is combined and cooked through. Add 2-3 chopped scallions and a scant teaspoon of toasted sesame oil; stir. Arrange your whole lettuce leaves around the outer edge of a large serving platter and pile meat mixture in the center.

Each diner takes a lettuce leaf and spoons a portion of meat into the middle. Garnish with finely julienned carrot and cucumber plus some bean sprouts if you like them. Wrap the lettuce around the filling like a burrito. It's messy, but delicious!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Scallops and Chard

Those who know me are well aware that I am New Englander, through and through. My palate is evidence enough of that. My father loves to tell people the story of when, at three years of age, I requested lobster for lunch at a carnival instead of a hot dog or hamburger. And my love of shellfish and many other New England staples only seems to grow with time. So, joining a CSA and trying to eat more locally (and get more creative with recipes) has been a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, I don't cook often because my husband is not home much but he was in between projects and I had him for 2 weeks straight! Needless to say, the pots and pans got a lot of use! And he shares my love of shellfish so pretty much any recipe I attempt in that area is gobbled right up.

Last weekend, I tried a scallop recipe that was somewhat created in my mind and somewhat ripped off of various internet sources. My culinary skills are still in their infancy so I almost always look to other recipes for guidance. We had picked up a pound of scallops at the farmer's market and for some reason, I really wanted to eat them with sauteed spinach. I figured I could sub in some CSA chard for the spinach and it would be just as good. Here's what I did:

Marinate 1 lb. scallops in dressing - I chose Drew's Soy Ginger dressing. Added crushed red pepper for some heat. Let it marinate for at least one hour in the fridge.
Saute +8 torn chard leaves (or another green, if you like) in olive oil, salt, garlic and more crushed red pepper.
Saute scallops (I used a separate pan but you could probably use the same one as the greens) until cooked through.
Toss greens and scallops together over heat to let flavors come together, salt to taste and serve!


We will definitely be making this again as we never seem to tire of seafood. It's just the New England in me!
-Nicole

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Day in the Life of a CSA

By now you've heard us wax poetic about our respective CSA's and the beautiful and tasty bounty we receive from them each week. But what exactly does a CSA "pickup" or "share" look like?


Our goods this week were so striking, I decided I had to take a picture of them before I started cooking, so that's what part of this post is all about. The photo above consists of: Red Russian Kale (that is what's in the plastic storage bag), Beets, Scallions (hiding under the Carrots), Red Cabbage, New Potatoes, Carrots and Shell Peas. Additional options included Broccoli (we've been on the run a lot this week and have a bunch from last week, so we passed on that) and Senposai Collards.


Our CSA operates in a "market style" fashion, which means you pick and choose from the week's offerings until you fill your "share". The farm has generously provided us with customized canvas bags (small bags for small shares, which equal approximately 1/4 bushel of produce a week and large bags for large shares, which equal approximately 1/2 bushel of produce a week - we have a small share for our small family). One of the things I love most about this style of distribution is we get the most bang for our buck - taking advantage of the things we love (and new things we want to try), while leaving others that we don't. Or in the case of this week's broccoli - opting out because we still have some at home.


Up until this week I had passed on the Kale. Even though our CSA offers a few different varieties, I've never found a recipe for Kale that rendered it palatable to me. That is until now....


Some of the members of our CSA have been making Kale Chips. This concept intrigued me. I love chips. If I can find a way to justify eating them regularly....well, that would be almost like winning the lottery! (Hey, I said almost.) I didn't have a particular recipe to go by - this was passed along from Desiree at Holiday Brook Farm by word of mouth. I baked them in a convection oven, which worked perfectly, if that option is open to you! Without further adieu, this is what I did...


Tear Kale into bite sized pieces (I was not too particular about this, some of my pieces were small; others were quite large). Toss with a little olive oil and your favorite sea salt or seasoned salt (I used Borsari). Spread out flat on a large cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven, keeping close watch on them. Remove from oven when Kale is crispy (and before they are completely toast colored).


I don't know that this recipe has convinced me to to out and search for Kale on a regular basis, but I do enjoy these and will be making this recipe from time to time. Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Shrimp Boil - A One Pot Meal

This is one of my favorite summertime recipes. It's quick and simple, full of local flavors and good for you too! Top it off with an ice cold beer and it's pretty much the perfect meal on a steamy summer evening (or a cool one too)!

My sister is visiting from VA (by way of New London, CT) and brought some shrimp from Captain Scotts Lobster Dock. The corn is "local" from the grocer (which means it's probably from Hadley, MA) and the new potatoes are from the farm stand on Tamarack Road - just around the corner.

Ingredients:
1 lemon, quartered
5 T Cajun seasoning
2 1/2 tsps. cayenne
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves
8 small boiling potatoes (about 2")
4 ears of corn, shucked and halved
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp in the shell (but deveined)
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 T horseradish

Preparation:
Squeeze lemon juice into 4 qt. water in a 6-8 quart pot, then stir in lemon quarters, cajun seasoning, 2 tsp. cayenne, bay leaves, garlic, potatoes, and 2 T salt (omit salt if it is the first ingreident in seasoning).

Bring to a boil, then simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are almost tender, 10-12 minutes.

Increase heat to high, then add corn and simmer, partially covered, 4 minutes.

Stir shrimp and cook until just cooked through, 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together ketchup, mayonnaise, horseradish and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cayenne. Drain shrimp, potatoes and corn and serve with sauce.

This recipe from epicurious came to me by way of Cate Robichaud McLean. As you can see, I served this up with a side of snap peas sauteed in a bit of olive oil with a pinch of Borsari seasoning.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ruby orbs of tastiness

Beets are a funny thing. I spent most of my childhood avoiding them; my father grew them every year in his very large Italian-immigrant-guy garden. They appeared on our table constantly, in all guises: steamed, boiled, roasted, pickled, shredded. I tasted them a few times, probably all times before the age of 10. My verdict: "They taste like red dirt." So I didn't eat them again for almost 30 years.

We started getting them, of course, with our CSA share. And, predictably, I had palmed them off every time on my friends. My neighbor has Russian relatives, so she knew just what to do with a bunch of beets. And my friend Deb used them to make borscht, which reminded her of her late mom. But then The Boy, then about 5 or 6, asked me why I kept giving our vegetables away. I promised him I'd cook them for him, silently reminding myself to "model good behavior" and not make yukky faces while I served him the beets. Surprise! He loved them. And so did I. Now we look forward to getting beets every year at the farm and sometimes even break down and buy those pretty golden ones once in a while if we go to Idlywilde Farms.

One day about two years ago, when we had a pretty good haul from the farm, The Boy decided he'd make up a salad recipe to use the things we'd gotten in our farm share. The salad consisted of roasted beets, steamed carrots, and shredded lettuce, all topped with a dollop of mayonnaise. Gulp. Well, we tried it, and he liked it, and he was eating all these vegetables, so I wasn't going to put the kibosh on THAT.

For a poolside dinner party we attended the other night, I made a slightly altered version of The Boy's salad, with the roasted beets (quartered), steamed carrot coins (cut with the crinkly carrot cutter I inherited from my late mom-in-law), and lovely butter lettuce cups. I made some lemon mayo (no, not from scratch! I doctored some Hellmann's with fresh lemon juice and zest) and served it on the side for drizzling. It made a delicious sauce to dip the beets into, and pretty much rendered the carrots and lettuce irrelevant. Sorry I couldn't take a picture of the entire composed salad, but I brought the elements of it to the party-giver's house separately so we wouldn't have blood-red lettuce, carrots, and dressing. So I just took a pic of the beets. But they're pretty enough to stand alone, don't you think?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

There Are Salads and Then There Are Salads!


One of the things I love about this time of year is the neverendinggoodness of fresh made salads. It doesn't matter to me whether they consist of healthy green vegetables or succulent fruits or in this case a combination of both.

We've been receiving fresh mesclun greens on a weekly basis from our CSA. I've been asking myself, "what exactly ARE those tender greens I'm enjoying"and last week's newsletter answered my question. Our mixture is a combination of arugula, mizuna, green wave, ruby streaks and red giant mustards, tat-soi and red russion kale (and sometimes spinach and/or chard). I've been adding some red or green leaf lettuce (or butter lettuce from our small garden) to the mix once I get it home.

A quick, easy and delicious lunch consists of tossing a heaping handful of the aforementioned greens with some crumbles of goat cheese, fresh sliced strawberries, which we picked ourselves at mountain view farm and candied walnuts. Drizzle a bit of really good olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top and you have a salad that's really hard to beat, at least in my book.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Stuffed Swiss Chard

I was inspired by this recipe that was posted on the cooking blog I wrote for last summer. But I didn't even click over to the real recipe, since the post mentions two fatal flaws: risotto (not my favorite), and a picky, time-consuming recipe. No thanks! So I just looked at the picture, and made my own quickie version!



Ingredients (to generously serve two people):

6 good-sized leaves swiss chard with no rips or holes
1 cup quinoa (or similar grain...I was out of quinoa so used Trader Joe's Harvest Blend, a mix of quinoa, garbanzo beans, orzo, and couscous. I've used quinoa in the past, though)
2 cups broth (veggie or chicken)
6 slices from a block of cheese (whatever variety you like...I used cheddar today, and I've used havarti in the past). The cheese should be about 1/8"-1/4" thick, and slightly less long than the size of the finished roll.
Additional broth, approximately 1 cup

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to the package directions, except use the 2 cups of broth in place of plain water. (If you do decide to use the Trader Joe's Harvest Blend, their package directions are all wrong and drive me crazy. Just use 1 cup of the grains with 2 cups of liquid. Cook for 20 minutes. If you follow the package directions, you end up with a dry, crunchy partially cooked mess!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut part of the thick stem out of the center of the swiss chard leaves, about 1" to 2" into the leaf section. You can see in the picture that it's okay to leave the center stem in the main section of the leaf, just get rid of the really thick part near the bottom of the leaf. Make sure you DON'T cut all of the center stem out...then your leaf will be broken in half and you won't be able to make a roll!

Place one slice of cheese in the center of each leaf. Top with a scoop of quinoa. I use a wooden spoon to scoop the quinoa...about 1 good sized wooden spoon scoop.

Fold the end of the leaf that's divided where the portion of the stem was cut out on top of the quinoa. Fold the opposite end over. Then fold in the two sides, making a roll. Place seam side down in a baking dish.

Continue until all leaves have been rolled.

Add the extra broth to the baking dish, so it come about 1/2 way up the side of the rolls. Cover the dish and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes.

The picture above is from before I baked it. Here's a picture after it came out of the oven:



You can kind of see in the back of the green leaf that some of the cheese started leaking out where I'd cut the center stem. That's the danger...you have to balance between removing the thick stem and having the filling leak! It's a fine line to walk :)

You also have to be careful removing this from the baking dish. I use two forks to support the bottoms. Get too wild, and the leaf will just come unrolled on the way to your plate and dump out all the filling! (Yes, that happened to me once, the first time I made these. As long as you're careful, though, they don't fall apart too easily.)

These are very yummy and easy to make. They do take almost an hour to prepare, but it's mostly sitting around waiting...the 20 minutes to make the quinoa and the 20 minutes to bake the rolls. The actual prep work is really quick, so I still think of this as an easy meal.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Zucchini Pancakes

Growing up, my parents would sometimes grow zucchini in the backyard. And my very favorite thing about growing zucchini would be when my mom would make "zucchini blobs". So when we got our first zucchini of the year from the CSA this past week, I decided to make my kids some zucchini blobs. Though for the sake of not turning people off, I've decided to call these "zucchini pancakes"...that's really what they are, made quite similarly to potato pancakes. But if you have kids, or a weird sense of humor, feel free to call them zucchini blobs. That's what they'll always be to me!



As with all informal family recipes, these quantities are a bit footloose and fancy-free. Feel free to swap and sub and add as you see fit! For example, I keep meaning to experiment with different herbs (feeling adventurous? I was wondering what this would be like with some fresh mint added! Or maybe some basil, or rosemary, or just plain ol' parsley. If you do try adding something, I'd love to hear how it turns out for you!) But here's the basic recipe.

Ingredients:

1 medium/large zucchini, about 2 cups roughly grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup bread crumbs (or more, if things seem really soupy after you mix it up)
Scant 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
Garlic powder, onion powder to taste (or real finely diced onion and garlic if you're feeling fancy!)
Oil for frying

Directions:

Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with oil (about 1/8" deep...not too deep, but more than just a splash!) Heat over medium high heat.

Mix together all the other ingredients.

Once the oil is hot, add a spoonful of the zucchini mixture to the oil. Use the back of the spoon to flatten it into a pancake shape. Repeat, leaving a small amount of room between pancakes. Flip after about 1 minute, when the bottom is browned. Fry the other side until brown (about 1 minute), then transfer to a paper towel to drain.

That's it! You can serve these plain, or with some sour cream, or with an extra sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, or some marinara sauce. However you'd like!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Rhubarb's last gasp




I know, rhubarb is a spring thing. And it's finally summer here. But I can't give up on rhubarb just yet: My two friends have been giving me parts of their rhubarb harvest for the last month or so, and I've been having a rhubarb fest. When I was a kid, we had a giant rhubarb plant that sprawled all over our garden. We'd eat what we could and preserve all the rest until the plant was exhausted. So I had a good bit of rhubarb when I was young. My father and I used to sit in the garden and chew the stringy stalks, seeing who could wait the longest to make a sour face. I always won. Come to think of it, I guess he let me win.


My friend brought me another batch of the good stuff the other day and I decided to make the rhubarb cake from the local Beyond Salmon blog (http://beyondsalmon.blogspot.com/) because the accompanying photo looked so appetizing. I kind of hated to chop it up, since it looked so nice, sitting there all preppy-pink-green on my counter. But The Girl and I chopped it up and made the cake (a very easy recipe). It was delicious; even my husband, an avowed rhubarb pooh-pooher, liked it a lot. My picture isn't as nice as the other blog's, but the cake rocked.


My rhubarb connection even told me that since her plant is getting too big for her garden, she's going to split it and give me half so I can grow my own stash. Being a black thumb, I resisted, but she prevailed and next year at this time I'll be havesting my own stalks. Who knows--now that I'm a master of jam (ha!) perhaps I'll try strawberry-rhubarb preserves. How about blue-barb? Yum.



Tzatziki with Marinated Souvlaki

When I got the email from our farmer this week telling us what to expect at our pick up, I was a bit disappointed. For the first time, something I really don't like was on the list: cucumbers. I know I'm not the only one who doesn't like them but unfortunately, I also hate pickles. I considered giving them to my neighbor but thought I should at least try to find something to do with them first.

After googling a bit, I came across a recipe for tzatziki, a Greek yogurt and cucumber dip. Duh!! I'm Greek and I can't believe I didn't think of it on my own. Well, this got me all excited, mouth-watering and the menu started coming together in my mind. I had some steak tips in the freezer - I can make steak gyros! Got some tomatoes in my CSA pick up so I can throw those in gyro. And since I'll be grilling the steak tips (aka souvlaki), I may as well grill the garlic scapes I got this week. And no good meal is complete without a side salad, so I could make use of all the lettuce and strawberries I got, too. Yum! All this inspired by the lowly cucumber - this is one of the things I love about eating locally. Seasonal inspiration!

Here is the recipe for the tzatziki, and yogurt marinade:

Tzatziki (from The Joy of Cooking)

1 cup yogurt (I used non-fat Greek yogurt)
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp dill, finely chopped
1 tbsp mint, finely chopped (I didn't have any so I doubled up on the dill)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt

Blend all ingredients together - I used a simple blender. Leave in fridge over night to let flavors settle. Serve cold.



Cilantro Cumin Yogurt Marinade (from here) - with some of my changes

1/2 medium onion, grated
1 cup Greek yogurt
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a large Tupperware. Add meat (in our case, 1.5lbs of steak tips), coat well, and cover. Leave in fridge overnight. Grill and serve hot.

Souvlaki with grilled garlic scapes


CSA lettuce and strawberries with Asian Sesame dressing

And here was our final product: Beef gyros with tzatziki and tomatoes


This was a perfect lunch for dining alfresco - finally we can enjoy some nice summer weather here in New England!

-Nicole

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sugar (Snap Peas) and Spice and Everything Nice

To me, the arrival of peas represents a sort of rite of passage from spring to summer. They're one of the first veggies to arrive on the scene as one begins to wonder, "just how many greens can/should one person eat?" Yeah, I know peas are green, but they're sweet, crispy goodness is a totally different experience from the spring greens, which are the first veggies to arrive on the scene at farmers' markets and in CSA shares.


I know we were thrilled to see sugar snap peas on the "pick your own" board at our CSA last week. Since then, we've enjoyed them prepared a variety of different ways. Raw off the plant in the garden (does it get any better than that?). Then in a risotto, a very close second (and the perfect comfort food on these rainy New England evenings). My standard risotto recipe can be found here. I use this as my "base" and tweak it according to what I have on hand (or to achieve the flavor I'm aiming for).



This time I omitted the saffron, but added 1/4 pound of prosciutto sliced into 1/2" pieces when I added the onions. This allows the flavor of the prosciutto to permeate the other ingredients (can you say, YUM)! The other change I made was to add about 1 cup of sugar snapped peas (cut into thirds) with the last ladle of stock. This really was one of my best meals ever IMHO. Restaurant quality. The poor lighting doesn't even begin to show how good and gorgeous this dish really is.
















The other new pea recipe I tried this past week was
Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas with Carrots and Ginger/Honey Glaze. This recipe was courtesy of Holiday Brook Farms' CSA Newsletter as taken from Farmer John’s Cookbook, The Real Dirt on Vegetables: Seasonal Recipes and Stories from a Community Farm.

Ingredients:
½-1lb sugar snap peas
2 medium carrots, peeled [I used half a package of baby carrots]
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp honey
A couple pieces crystallized ginger, chopped fine (about 1-2 Tbsp, to taste) [I used grated fresh ginger]
Fresh ground pepper

Instructions:
Remove strings from both edges of the pea pods. Cut each carrot into thirds and slice lengthwise so that they are about the same size as the pea pods. Place carrots in a steamer basket and steam until just crisp-tender, 3-5 minutes. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the peas; cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Add the carrots. Continue to cook until peas are bright green, about 3 minutes. Add the honey & ginger and cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly, until the peas and carrots are glazed. Season with pepper to taste.







I'll be adding both these recipes to my recipe box. Hope you enjoy them too!


Bon Appetit!