Wednesday, September 30, 2009


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 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.