Thursday, September 2, 2010

Savory Summer Salsa

As I mentioned below, from a 'farm to table' perspective, this is my favorite time of year. And there's no better way to enjoy the bounty of the season than in a fresh summer salsa. So when I saw the recipe of the week in our CSA newsletter from Holiday Brook Farm was for none other than Summer Salsa I knew I had to try it.

My husband, who doesn't normally like fresh tomatoes (I know, it's sinful) can't get enough of this stuff! This one's a keeper; I'll be putting some up for winter consumption so we can enjoy this savory salsa throughout the depths of winter here in the northeast.

So without further adieu, here is the recipe - courtesy of Eden Glen Farm by way of Ed & Ellen Bond, shareholders.

Ingredients -
1/2 red sweet bell pepper
1/2 purple sweet pepper
1 green bell pepper
2 jalapeno peppers
1 Hungarian Hot Wax pepper
5 large tomatoes (many varieties)
2 large cloves of garlic
2-4 Tablespoons each of fresh cilantro and basil
1 ear of corn, cut off cob
1 large onion, any kind
4 Tablespoons cider vinegar
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 - 1 can black beans
2-4 Tablespoons tomato paste to sweeten and thicken (if needed)
Ground Cayenne to taste (optional)
Directions: Dice all vegetables and mix with the vinegar and olive oil. Add beans, optional tomato paste and cayenne.

I highly recommend a top shelf margarita on the side.
Bon Appetit!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Loving Local

Today may be the official end of Massachusetts Farmers' Market Week, however, it's certainly not the end of Farmers' Market season here in the Berkshires. In fact, late August/early September is one of my favorite times of year as the variety of local fruits and vegetables available is at a peak. (This favorite time of year thing may also have to do with the fact that football season is knocking at the door and night temperatures begin to plunge, but I digress.)

My friend Tinky over at In Our Grandmothers' Kitchen hosted a Loving Local blogathon this past week in an effort to increase awareness of the bounty all around us and celebrate the flavors of the Bay State.

I'm a bit late to the party, but would be remiss if I didn't join in with a shout out to the local farm that provides a large amount of the food on our table. Our dinner last night was simple - grilled pork tenderloin, with a lemon pepper rub, mashed new potato "patties" (made from leftover mashed potatoes) and a medley of green, yellow and purple beans sauteed in a bit of sesame oil (YUM). Aside from the seasonings and oil, everything on our plate came from our friends at Holiday Brook Farm.

Whatever YOUR fancy - succulent peach crumble, or a slice of fresh blueberry pie, corn on the cob, an heirloom tomato salad, roasted new potatoes or farm fresh eggs - your local farm(er) is your freshest source. Buying local is not only better for you, it's better for your local economy too and you'll be doing your part to help preserve open space as well as our cultural heritage.

If you would like to spread some love to local farmers by donating to the Mass Farmers' Market, you can do so here.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Coriander and Cilantro Flatbread

I don't know what it is about the summer, but I've got a bumper crop of cilantro. Tons and tons and tons of it. I use some, and the next day it seems like I've already got twice as much as I had the day before!

I pulled this recipe out of Bon Appetit magazine a few years back, and decided now was the time to make it to use up some of this delicious cilantro. I've made some very minor adjustments/clarifications, noted here.

Coriander and Cilantro Flatbreads
(pictured with Slow cooker Lentils, Rice, and Eggplant)


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
3 teaspoons ground coriander (or more!)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (packed, measured after chopping. Better with lots of cilantro, if you ask me!)
3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
olive oil for frying


Add the first 5 ingredients to a medium bowl, and mix well with a whisk (alternately, sift the ingredients together). Stir in the cilantro. Add yogurt and stir with a fork until slightly mixed, then knead until dough holds together. Don't over-knead! Add more flour or yogurt if necessary to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Use a large knife to divide the dough into 8 pieces, and roll into balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball out into a flat circle. Make the bread pretty thin (1/4" or so thick)--it'll puff when cooking.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Brush with olive oil until the bottom of the pan is well-coated. Place two or three breads into the skillet (depends on how many can fit...don't crowd!). Cook until dough is golden brown and slightly puffed, then flip. It takes only 2 or 3 minutes per side. Keep warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.

Slow Cooker Lentils, Rice, and Eggplant

Besides the lentils (Baer's Best--yum!), not much of this is local. Yet. But I'm posting this recipe now because later in the summer, most of the veggies will be available locally. And because it's so good :)

This recipe is based on a recipe I found at The first time I made this, I followed the recipe exactly and wasn't pleased with the results. But it had promise, so I made it again with significant adjustments to the quantities, and it was perfect!

Slow Cooker Lentils, Rice, and Eggplant
(pictured with Coriander and Cilantro Flatbread)


3 Tbs sherry (or just veggie stock is fine)
1 large or 2 medium onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz chopped mushrooms
3 medium carrots, diced
1 eggplant, peeled and cubed into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup lentils (any kind. The second time I made it, I used French Green lentils, and I liked how they held up in the slow cooker.)
1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup veggie stock
1 cup water
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley (or more)
Olive oil for sauteeing


Saute the vegetables until lightly browned and slightly softened. Add everything except the parsley to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or high for 3 to 4 hours. Serve with parsley on top for garnish.


It's a little more work in the morning than I'm used to with slow cooker recipes since there's a lot of peeling, dicing, and sauteeing. But it really is delightful, even if you have to save it for a weekend to make. Leftovers are also yummy!

This is fabulous with the Coriander and Cilantro Flatbread recipe I'm also posting. Delightful combination!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Strawberry Daze

Whew, it's been a long winter. But I find that some of the first things to grow and mature and announce the arrival of spring and early summer are cheery pink, especially rhubarb and strawberries. What better color to wake up our winter-tired eyes and our root-weary tastebuds?

The Boy and The Girl were still in school last week, so I was able to go to my local PYO strawberry farm and power-pick some fruit (read: no visits to feed the animals, no begging for ice cream). The farmer says that strawberry season, due to a confluence of weather-related factors, is running about 10-14 days ahead of schedule this year, so it's already nearly at an end. And blueberries are coming up fast behind them, perhaps as soon as next week. I was able to pick more than 8 pounds of berries quickly, and then it was back home to decide how to dole out the juicy prizes.

I made a batch of jam with most of them (see my jam post from June of last year), and decided to make dessert with the rest. My family loves clafoutis (read Bea's funny treatise on clafoutis at with any kind of fruit, from blueberry to pear, but most recipes I read always say, "Use any kind of fruit EXCEPT strawberries, since they are too wet."

Well, strawberries was what I had, and that's what was going to get clafoutis-ed. I decided to adapt a recipe for pear and chocolate clafoutis that I learned last year at a cooking class in Paris (long story, excellent class!), and I knew that I'd be making six personal-sized desserts in the small, shallow white ramekins I bought just for this purpose.

The oven preheated to 375 while the ramekins got buttered and dusted with sugar. I beat 2 eggs for a minute or two, then added a pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons of sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, a half-cup of flour, and a cup of thick Greek yogurt (you can also use creme fraiche, like we did in Paris, or even sour cream). I added a half-cup of milk and beat the whole thing till it was smooth. Also into the bowl went a small slug of creme de cassis, which my cooking instructor added to all three courses we cooked with her! (Had to carry a bottle of that good stuff back with me, I'm nearly down to the dregs now, gotta make another trip!) I sliced the berries lengthwise and placed about 10 slices in the bottom of the ramekins, poured the egg-milk-yogurt mix carefully over the berries, and then--with the edge of a paring knife--shaved some bittersweet chocolate shreds over each portion. A little sprinkle of sugar on top and they were ready for 20-30 minutes in the oven. You know they're done when the edges are brown but the center is just set.

Yes, I made a little strawberry fan on top like they do in nice restaurants. Yes, my kids were surprised that I actually "decorated" their food. But they got over it mighty quick when they got to have warm strawberry clafoutis for snack after school.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Raving About Rhubarb

Rhubarb is another rite of spring that takes me back to the days of my youth. I'm not sure whether that has more to do with the fact that it was a pretty regular attendee at family gatherings throughout the spring or because we were continually being yelled at for battering mom's abundant crop. You see, as I was growing up our rhubarb was planted right along our basketball court in the back yard. As a result, it often took quite a beating from errant basketballs. (What's a kid or two to do?)

And as kids, we could never understand what the big deal was over breaking a stalk (or ten). There was still PLENTY of rhubarb to go around. Mom would preserve rhubarb by making and canning numerous jars of rhubarb sauce, we'd also have rhubarb crisp and thus yummy, artery clogging dish called rhubarb fruit pie. But my FAVORITE way to eat it was (and still is) in a regular ole rhubarb pie - well regular to the Nuttall family and those who knew them.

Many people add strawberries to their rhubarb pie to balance the tart taste of this vegetable, which is more commonly considered a fruit. This recipe uses a custard-type filling to achieve what I consider to be a perfect balance of sweet and sour.

I use this recipe for my crust. Once your crust has been rolled out and the bottom crust placed into your pie pan, combine the following ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten (if they are small, use 3)
2 Tablespoons flour
Combine above with 3 to 4 cups of rhubarb cut into one inch pieces and pour into unbaked pie crust. Dot with butter and add top crust. Brush top crust with milk and sprinkle with raw, unrefined sugar.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then lower temperature to 375 for 40-50 minutes. I like to serve this slightly warm or at room temperature with a scoop of local vanilla ice cream on top!

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ramping Up for Our Vegetable CSA

I had (the best) intentions of blogging this post quite some time ago - you know, when ramps were actually in season and it was considered fashionable to spend the afternoon foraging for them.

However, technical difficulties (read: my beloved husband permanently damaged the monitor on our laptop, rendering it useless). I toyed with the idea of passing this one by (or saving it until next spring), but by then I will have forgotten this "recipe". Since this blog exists not only as a means of sharing our passion for local foods but also as an archive of recipes we may want to return to - I've decided to forge ahead (or should I say forage ahead).

Some of my earliest childhood memories involve ramps. My mom would send my sister and I off with our buckets and trowels to forage for ramps so she could make potato leek soup. I loved those foraging adventures....I still do. I can't think of a better way to welcome spring and bid farewell, for the time being, to a diet laden with winter root vegetables.

One of my favorite ways to eat ramps is to coat them with olive oil, sprinkle them with a dash of sea salt then toss them on the grille. They also make a FANTASTIC pesto sauce. Combine a healthy handful of greens (I highly recommend using the bulbs too) in your food precessor with 1/3 of a cup of pine nuts and a couple tablespoons of butter. Blend as you drizzle in olive oil until you obtain the desired consistency, then blend with 1/4 cup of imported, grated parmesan cheese and add salt to taste.

My favorite way to eat ramp pesto is mixed with some fresh (cooked) cheese tortellini and grilled chicken breast.

Freeze any pesto you're not going to consume within the next few days - you'll appreciate it down the road when ramp season becomes a distant memory.

Bon appetit!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

How my garden grows

In the past, I've halfheartedly thrown a few vegetable seedlings in our gardens, hoping for the best. Unsurprisingly, my "survival of the fittest" theory of gardening usually resulted in weeds, bugs, and animals proving they were the fittest. So I've never actually had any vegetables to harvest.

This year, I decided to make more of a concerted effort. I read a few basic gardening books. We decided to try out a square foot garden. While our new house has a beautiful yard, it's very wooded and our best sun comes in the front yard. Rather than digging out the yard to plant a traditional garden, we just added a 4' x 4' box. It was a fun project. The kids had a lot of fun with it. For the dividers, we bought a bunch of wood paints at the craft store and let them go wild.

Cute, huh?

So what have we got going here? Onions, lettuce, rainbow chard, fairy tale eggplant, grape tomatoes, sungold tomatoes, a carrot mix (yellow, purple, and orange--N-man's pick), lima beans (B-man's pick). I had transplanted some arugula as well that I'd started indoor from seeds, but it didn't make it. The transplanted lettuce didn't work out, either, so I bought some at the nursery that's growing much better.

I also wanted an herb garden. I had a small herb garden at my last house that I loved, though it was fairly inconveniently located from the kitchen. We decided this year to put the herbs in planters on the back porch. Some of the smaller planters I'm planning to bring inside in the winter--fresh herbs all year, if it works out! Our porch is very near the kitchen, and already I find myself just popping out with a pair of scissors to harvest a few sprigs while I'm cooking. Wonderfully convenient!

This one is parsley, garlic chives, and amethyst basil (a favorite with N-man and B-man, not to mention TK and me!).

Next, we've got rosemary, chocolate mint, and chives. These are the planters I'm sure to bring in this winter.

In a big planter, I have sage, cilantro, basil, and lemon thyme. I'm worried this might be over-full, but if so, I'm sure I can use vast quantities of cilantro and basil if I need to thin this fast.

I had another planter so I threw in an extra fairy-tale eggplant and two lettuce plants. I'm going to harvest the lettuce very soon, before they grow much larger and start to crowd the eggplant. Yum, fresh baby lettuce, maybe this weekend!

My inlaws gave us a strawberry pot, so using my vast imagination, I planted it with...strawberries. We've gotten 5 yummy strawberries from it already, but mostly the strawberries are getting eaten by animals (chipmunks, I think. Do they eat strawberries?) I don't have much hope for this. I think we'll do flowers instead of strawberries next time.

Then in the last planter, I'm trying to start some herbs from seeds. There are lots of little sprouts, but I planted over a month ago and it's growing very slowly. It's a fun experiment, but I don't have hugely high hopes for this. It'll be neat to see what, if anything really comes up here.

So that's it. I tried not to go overboard since 1) we have a CSA subscription, and there are only so many vegetables even I can eat, and 2) I've never had much luck in the past with gardens, and there are ZILLIONS of wild animals around our house so I fear I'm just gardening for them :)

Do you have a garden? What are you growing this year?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Strawberry Ice Cream

In honor of my favorite you-pick farm, Parlee Farm, opening for strawberry picking this week, I'm posting a delightful strawberry ice cream recipe. This is egg-free, so it tastes a little lighter than regular ice cream. Not that it's light. At all. But it sure is delicious! Quick, easy, no cooking required--yum!


1 pint strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 pinch salt
extra strawberries and mint leaves for garnish (optional)


Hull strawberries and place in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash well. (Hint: mash very well. Big chunks of strawberries become hard frozen blobs).

Mix remaining ingredients into the juicy strawberry mash. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to your ice cream maker instructions.

Once it's frozen solid (or kind of solid, like I did, if your kids can't possibly wait any longer), scoop into dishes and garnish with strawberries and mint if desired. This year I'm trying chocolate mint in a container on my porch. I ended up tearing up the leaves and mixing into my ice cream. Soooo good! Next time I might add some chopped mint leaves directly into the ice cream!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Kale, Sweet Potato, and Bean Soup

I'm not sure what to call this soup. Sure, it has kale, sweet potato, and beans in it, but it's the squash-flavored broth that really makes it outstanding. It looks like a lot of extra work, and it kind of is (though really, it's not too bad). But believe me, this makes the most AWESOME tasting broth ever...kind of sweet and rich and delicious.

This soup is also easily adaptable to a vegan recipe. I'll include notes if anyone wants to make it vegan.

This is also just the basic recipe--feel free to add other vegetables. I usually throw in whatever other root veggies are in the house, like carrots or parsnips. You could play around with what type of greens you use instead of kale. You can swap out different types of beans. Basically, this is an easily-customizable recipe. I'm just giving you my favorite version :)

This will make a big pot of soup. I like to make a big batch, and then just freeze the leftovers. But if you're unsure about this recipe, or don't like leftovers, you'll probably want to half this recipe.


Approximately 3 lbs winter squash (any kind is okay--I've made it with delicata squash, and a combo of butternut, delicata, and dumpling squash. Feel free to experiment! Also, you're just going to puree this into the broth for flavor, so it's fine to use more or less squash. Just use what you've got!)
1 large apple, peeled and coarsely diced
1 large onion, peeled and coarsely diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Olive oil for drizzling (I don't know, maybe 2 tablespoons approximately)
Honey for drizzling (again, about 2 tablespoons) (Omit honey if you're making a vegan recipe. I've made this without the honey--the resulting soup still has that sweetness from the squash and sweet potatoes. I just like the faint smoky-depth you get from honey!)
12 cups stock (I like turkey stock for this, though clearly use veggie stock if you want to make vegan soup :)
1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes
2 cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves torn into bite sized pieces
1 teaspoon sage
Pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the squash in half and discard seeds. Place the squash cut side up on a baking tray. Place the diced apples, onions and crushed garlic into the cups in the squash where the seeds were. Drizzle with olive oil and honey. Roast until squash is fork-tender, about 45 minutes (it will really depend on how thick your squash is, so just keep checking). Remove from oven and let cool.

Once the squash is cool enough to touch, scoop the onions, apples, garlic, and squash flesh into a large pot. Add 4 cups of stock. Simmer for 30 or 45 minutes, until everything is pretty soft.

Turn off the heat and let cool for 15 minutes or so. This is important--danger, danger! The next step is to blend this up and the soup can splash and burn you. If you make this often, I know one day you'll say "oh, I won't burn myself. I'm not going to wait." Then it'll splash and hit you and burn. I know, I speak from experience! Okay, warning over, back to the recipe. Using an immersion (stick) blender, blend the soup until it's smooth. Feel free to add more broth if the liquid level isn't high enough and you're getting splashing from the stick blender. You could also process in batches in a regular blender as well.

Turn the stove back on to medium. Add the remaining broth (you may not need the full 12 cups--it's up to you how soupy you like your soup to be. I usually keep adding as time goes on so it maintains the soupiness I like :). Add the diced sweet potatoes. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add the sage, beans, and kale. (Depending on the size of your bunch of kale, you may not need to add it all. Just keep adding kale until it looks like enough kale to you. I usually make Jules' kale chips with the leftover kale!) Simmer for approximate 30-45 minutes until the kale and potatoes are tender. Season with pepper.


This has quickly become my favorite soup. I first "invented" it when I was getting all these vegetables in our fall CSA share. I made it for Thanksgiving dinner. I've been making it all winter, with fewer and fewer local ingredients. I just made it yesterday, and the only local ingredients I could find were apples, garlic, and winter squash, but at least this time I finally remembered to write down the quantities as I was cooking so I could post the recipe. But I think it's about time to retire this for the year--I'll be looking forward to next fall when I can find all these ingredients again!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wayland Winter Farmers' Market review

I love New England, but the dark days of winter seem so long by the end of January. A few weeks ago, I was sitting around lamenting the lack of fresh produce, considering just how crazy it would be to make a 2+ hour drive to the winter farmers' markets I'd heard about in Rhode Island or Connecticut.

Imagine my surprise when I found there's not one, but TWO winter farmers' markets in the area! How do I miss these things? Anyway, after lots of squealing and jumping for joy, I told my husband and we planned our trips. Both markets are still about 45 minutes away, but that's a little less extreme than leaving the state :)

This past Saturday, we checked out the Wayland Winter Farmers' Market. It runs Saturdays 10-1 through February 27.

It was awesome! Just what I needed!

Okay, now for a more useful review. We arrived shortly after the market opened, about 10:30. The parking lot was crowded and exceedingly slippery. We wound our way through the store to the area where farmers' market was set up. It was ridiculously crowded! I mean, stacks of people crowded around stalls, queued up to buy, blocking aisles.

I figure this is a good and bad thing. Good, because it certainly proves there's a demand, and I can hope next winter there will be more farmers' markets. Good, because I like to see the farmers' work supported and valued. Bad for me who was trying to shop with two kids and a baby in a stroller! It certainly wasn't the relaxing experience of most summer farmers' markets where you can spend a minute or two talking to vendors.

As to be expected in the winter, the market was heavier on prepared foods than produce. A lot of the prepared foods are produced locally, but not necessarily with local ingredients. That doesn't bother me, but my issue is that many of the prepared foods aren't nut-safe, so we can't get them due to nut allergies. Ah well. We got some anyway and just won't let our son eat any! We ended up with a container of maple syrup and a container of Thai Maple Peanut Sauce from The Warren Farm, a jar of delicious cranberry-lime sauce from Appalachian Naturals, and a very exciting container of Baba Ganoush from Samira's Homemade, not to mention their Ful Medammes and some pita bread. We got some gnocchi and mozzarella from Fior D'Italia and some stew beef from Springdell Farm.

I embarrassingly can't remember which farm the veggies came from...hey, as I said, I was wrangling twins, an infant, and braving huge crowds. The veggie stand was so swamped when we arrived that we passed them by at first. We stopped back as we were ready to leave at about 11:15, and the stand was less crowded but looking a little picked over. I wonder what it was like closer to 1 when the market closed! For example, I really wanted kale, and by the time we got there, there were only 3 scraggly looking bundles left. I snapped one of them up...made it into yummy soup last night :) We also got some onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and garlic. Plus just enough baby spinach and arugula to make a salad for my husband and I. At $14 a lb, we didn't buy much, but it sure was a delightful mid-winter treat and worth the splurge!

Overall, I'd give this one a positive review. I'm glad it was so crowded, even if it did make it a little bit difficult for me to maneuver through. Just go expecting the crowds...the products there were all high-quality, delicious, and worth the trip!

Next week, we're off to try the Natick Winter Farmers' Market! I'll let you know what I think.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Smitten and Spoiled

Those of you who have been following this blog since the beginning are quite aware of how smitten I am with our CSA Farm. I love everything about belonging to a CSA - farm to table food (some of which we get to pick ourselves!), the opportunity to show my young son EXACTLY where his food comes from, developing a real relationship with the farmers that in essence are present at our table every day (I could go on and on).

Yes, indeed, we become a wee bit spoiled during the traditional growing season here in Western, MA when fresh, local produce (and a large variety of it) is readily available. But, all good things must come to an end, and eventually even the storage crops begin to dwindle. I knew this was going to be a tough transition for me (and my family).

To their credit, our local Big Y is committed to supporting local farms and food producers and labels these selections accordingly, making it relatively easy to continue purchasing local staples, but it's the fresh, local produce I really missed. Enter Berkshire Organics. Once again, I am smitten. My only regret is that this business wasn't my brainchild (though I'm eternally grateful to Aleisha for conceiving and ultimately giving birth to this convenient and affordable service).

For the past couple of months, we've been the proud (and happy) recipients of the Berkshire Basket. Since Berkshire Organics is "right down the road" from my daycare provider, I've opted to pick our basket up (vs. having it delivered) and we manage to stretch our basket out over the course of two weeks (with supplements from our freezer, root cellar and I'll be honest...the grocer). I LOVE the fact that Berkshire Organics' goal is to help reduce the distance from the farm to our table (sound familiar). They work with a number of farms within a 50-mile radius as well as an organic supplier who shares their vision by purchasing produce as close to New England as possible. The produce is fantastic and the variety (and flexibility) is great too! They let you know ahead of time what's in that weeks' basket and if there's something you don't like you can email them to request a substitution from a list of items that are available.

As we move into February and each day brings us a little closer to spring, the distance our food travels will begin to diminish. Before you know it we'll once again be basking in the warmth that Holiday Brook Farm brings to so many ways.

I am extremely grateful for the local food options available to us here in the Berkshires. For those of you who try to eat locally when you can, what do YOU do during the "off season"?

Bon Appetit!

Note: New England Bloggers are celebrating their one-year anniversary this week. To celebrate, Elizabeth - host(ess) of NEB has organized a carnival of posts that relate to our wonderful region. Please stop by to see the celebratory blog posts - and don't forget to say "hi"!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pure Comfort

The last time we "spoke", I was waxing poetic about the collection of various local squash adorning our dining room table. I've certainly come to see these delectable treats in a new light over the past couple of months - for they are one of the last remaining vegetables we have left from our CSA Farm. I've come to cherish this connection with Mother Earth and thoroughly enjoy preparing and eating each and every one.

I stumbled upon Amy Cotler's recipe for Tropical Butternut Squash Bisque in a recent edition of Rural Intelligence. I knew I had one lone butternut squash stocked away* and just happened to have a can of coconut milk in the pantry, so it all seemed meant to be...

For those of you who aren't local and may not be familiar with Amy, she's been a BIG farm to table advocate for years. She is the founding director of Berkshire Grown, which became an early model for local food and farm advocacy in my neck of the woods.

I followed the recipe exactly, except for the garnish - I was making this for my brown bag lunches, which don't lend themselves to garnishes as well as a home-cooked lunch or dinner might, but it was fabulous nonetheless! I love the way the earthy, sweet flavor of the squash melds with the tropical hint from the coconut and the mild spice of cayenne. YUM! This one's a keeper. And a BIG thank you to Amy for teaching me you don't have to wrestle with butternut squash in an attempt to peel it! Just pierce it and toss it in the oven - once it's roasted, the skin will peel right off (who knew)?

Bon Appetit!

*This particular squash was locally sourced, but was not a part of our actual CSA distribution.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bean Soup

I was reading the winter issue of Edible Boston, and there was an article about Baer's Best, a local grower of dried beans. And even better, it mentioned they're sold at Idylwilde Farm, a place I frequently shop! So I headed out and bought myself some beans. There were plenty of varieties to chose from, and I decided on the mixed bag of Heirloom Bean Soup.

Isn't it pretty? How could I resist?

There was a recipe on the back of the bag that I used for a jumping off point. I added some ingredients based on what was in my fridge. Here's my version of the recipe:

Heirloom Bean Soup

1 lb mixed dried beans
Lots of water (see recipe)
1 Tbsp salt
1 ham hock or 1/4 lb finely diced ham
1 large onion, diced
1 or 2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes (I used two cans, but thought it turned out a little too tomato-y, so you might just want to start with one can)
1 parsnip, peeled and sliced
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
Juice of one lemon
Pepper to taste

Wash the beans, then place in a pot with 4 cups of water and 1 Tbsp salt. Let stand overnight.

The next day, drain the beans. Return beans to the pot and add 8 cups water. Add the diced onion and ham hock or diced ham. Simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, adding more water as necessary if the water level starts getting low. Over the entire course of cooking, I added about 5 more cups of water, so you might need to add quite a bit more than the initial 8 cups.

If you used a ham hock, take the bone out of the soup, pick off any meat, and return the meat to the soup. Discard the bone.

Add remaining ingredients and simmer until carrots and parsnips are tender, about 45 minutes, adding more water if the soup is too thick for you.


The end result was outstanding! Bean soups take a lot of time, but my husband and I both love them so every once in a while, it's worth the effort. One of my kids even ate quite a bit of this soup, and since neither of them ever eat anything new, it was pretty exciting!

And I went back to the store and bought 3 more bags of beans: one bag of black beans, one bag of split peas, and of course another bag of the Heirloom Soup beans. Delightful! Plenty more soups in our future!