Tuesday, December 30, 2008

White Bean and Ham Soup

Last night I used up the last of the Christmas ham in this very simple but satisfying soup. I threw in some fresh parsley, some of the last that I harvested from the garden a couple weeks ago. If I had had kale or other greens on hand, I would have added them as well. I bet this would be tasty with sausage or bacon instead of the ham, too.

1 large onion, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups white beans, picked over and soaked for several hours
2-3 cups diced cooked ham
Water or stock
1 cup loosely packed chopped fresh or frozen parsley (or a couple cubes if frozen in trays)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat some olive oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 4-5 minutes. Add the beans and ham and enough water or stock to just cover them. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the beans are soft (30-60 minutes depending on the size and age of the beans and how long they soaked beforehand). Check periodically in case more liquid is needed. The end product should be a thick soup.

When the beans are tender, add the parsley and salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Dinner

Christmas dinner was at my house for the first time ever, and my sister and I did virtually all the cooking together. Fun all around. We managed to put together a menu that featured local foods as the main ingredient in every dish.

First of all, there was the ham from Bostrom's, of course. We baked it and covered it with a clementine-peppercorn glaze that was both sweet and deliciously savory and peppery. It went beautifully with the ham.

Then we served roasted local fingerling potatoes with dried figs and garlic, roasted local butternut squash with roasted garlic, maple roasted sweet potatoes from Red Fire Farm, and green beans that I froze this summer from the farmers market, steamed and served with sauteed slived almonds and butter. It was all fantastic. Everything but the green beans was a new recipe for our holiday table, and I think a few will be repeated in future years.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Ham from Bostrom's

Saturday Donovan and I braved the sort-of-plowed streets and made our way over to Bostrom's Farm here in Greenfield to see if we could find something good for Christmas dinner. We had hoped to go up to Wheelview in Shelburne but decided it wasn't worth it given the condition of the roads. We got ourselves a lovely smoked ham (quite enormous, but I'm looking forward to freezing leftovers), met Kyle Bostrom, and got to introduce 15-month-old Nate to the cows (which he thought might just be really big dogs, he wasn't totally sure). We had hoped to pick up some of their bacon as well, which is really excellent, but learned that Hope & Olive had recently bought all they had. Oh well. A good endorsement anyway!

I'm going to bake the ham with a peppery citrus glaze. Half of it anyway. I might just cut it in half and only glaze part of it, since there's no way the six of us are going to consume and eight pound ham, and glazing will make the leftovers less generally useful.

If you live in Greenfield or come into Greenfield frequently, Bostom's is super convenient (it's on Colrain Road) and they have a self-serve farm stand with the meat in a freezer. They sell eggs and raw milk as well, though we didn't check to see if they had any in stock this weekend. Kyle said they are currently out of beef and are expecting to have a bunch in starting in February. They still have some pork.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Savory Roasted Delicata Squash

Delicata squash is exceptionally sweet. You could actually serve it for dessert, topped with some maple syrup or brown sugar and sweet spices. But it's also good as a sweet/savory side dish. Here is what I did with one last night.

1 medium delicata squash
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 tsp dried sage

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the squash in half the long way and remove the strings and seeds. Place the two halves cut side up in a baking dish. Drizzle squash with olive oil, using your fingers or a pastry brush to coat the surface. Sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and sage.

Add a little water to the bottom of the baking dish and loosely cover the squash with aluminum foil. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until squash is tender.

Serves 2.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Squash Soup with Sage and Garlic

Here is another tasty pureed winter squash soup. It's easy to make with butternut squash because butternut peels so easily. But if you want to use a not-so-easily-peeled squash, just cook the squash first (by steaming, roasting, or whatever method you like), then add it along with some water when you are ready to puree.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
8-12 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp dried sage
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
Water or stock (veggie or chicken)
1 14-ounce package silken tofu (optional)
2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh sage leaves for topping (optional)

Heat the butter or olive oil in a soup pot. Add the garlic and onions and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the dried sage and sauté briefly.

Add the squash to the pot, along with enough water to cover it. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender (20 minutes or so).

Add the tofu (if using) and puree the soup using an immersion blender (or you can do it in batches in a regular blender or food processor). Add salt and pepper to taste.

If desired, fry some whole fresh sage leaves to garnish the soup. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pureed Sweet Potato Squash Soup

This is adapted from a recipe that appeared in the New York Times a month or so ago. The original called for a regular potato in addition to the sweet potatoes; I didn't have any potatoes, so I skipped it, and didn't miss it in the end product. This is a gorgeous, bright orange soup, smooth and rich tasting. I served it with popovers.

1 Tbsp canola or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 medium butternut squash (about 1.5 lbs), peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Water or stock (chicken or veggie)

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onion and saute over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and saute another minute or so. Add the squash and sweet potatoes and enough water or stock to cover them. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender (about 20-25 minutes).

When the vegetables are tender, puree the soup with an immersion blender (or do it in batches in a regular blender or food processor).

Serves about 6.

Variations: I haven't tried it yet, but I bet carrots would also work beautifully in this soup in place of the squash. Or maybe even in place of both the squash and sweet potato. Also, you could add silken tofu for some additional protein.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pasta with Tomato Bacon Sauce

The night before last I made potato kale soup with bacon and had half a package of thawed bacon (from Bostrom's Farm) left over that needed using. This is what I came up with. I used two quart-sized bags of tomatoes from the freezer, and they provided a lovely blast of summer flavor. I threw in a bunch of fresh parsley because I had recently harvested the last of it from the garden and had lots in the fridge. To easily remove the skins from the frozen tomatoes, run quickly under warm water and they slip off.

6 oz. bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
2 quart bags frozen tomatoes, skins removed, cut into chunks
1 15-oz can red beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley or 1/2-3/4 cup frozen
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb linguine or other pasta

Cook the bacon in a dutch oven. Remove and drain on paper towels. Drain off most of the bacon fat from the pot, leaving 1-2 teaspoons. Return the pot to the heat and add the onions. Saute for 3-5 minutes, then add the tomatoes. When it starts to look more like sauce, add the beans, salt, and pepper. Simmer until it reaches a nice consistency, or for as long as you have time for.

While the sauce simmers, heat a pot of water and cook the pasta.

When ready to serve, add the parsley to the sauce and stir so it wilts. Serve the sauce over the pasta.

Serves about 4.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Farmhouse Sausage Chili

I adapted this from a recipe in the Joy of Cooking. I used chorizo from Not Your Ordinary Farm and tomatoes and peppers from the freezer.

1 lb chorizo or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 large onion, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried sage
1-2 bell peppers (red or green), diced
1-2 hot peppers, seeded and minced (option)
3-4 cups chopped tomatoes (seeded)
3-4 cups cooked red beans (2 15-oz. cans)
Salt and pepper to taste

Start cooking the sausage in a dutch oven or soup pot (I like to use a cast iron dutch oven for this sort of thing), breaking it into chunks as it cooks. As the fat starts to render, add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion starts to turn translucent. Add the cumin and sage and cook for another minute or so. Add the bell peppers, hot peppers (if using), tomatoes, and beans. Simmer for 15 minutes or so. Add salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Serves 4-6.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sweet Potato Pone

This recipe is a longstanding holiday tradition in my family. My mom started making it during a brief period living in the south when I was toddler. Now my sister and I share it with friends and in-laws, and it's always a hit. The optional pecans are my sister's contribution.

2 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cooked
1/4 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
10 or so pecan halves (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish with a cover.

Mash the sweet potatoes with the melted butter.

In a medium bowl, beat two eggs. Add brown sugar and thoroughly combine. Stir in the milk, molasses, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Add sweet potatoes and stir until well blended.

Turn the mixture into the casserole dish. If desired, top with pecan halves. Bake, covered, for 50-60 minutes. Serve hot.

Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Oatmeal with Dried Peaches

Back in September, I dried a bunch of peaches from Clarkdale. I did them in thin slices, so the end product is quite crisp. Now I am breaking them up into my morning oatmeal as it simmers on the stove, so that by the time it is ready, the peaches are soft, flavorful little nuggets that bring back a hint of warmer weather. Yum!


We bought a big "pie mix" bag of apples from Clarkdale just before Thanksgiving. After two large pies, there were still a lot of apples left, so I've been making applesauce and freezing it (canning it is easy enough, but I just don't have time--and I do have room in my freezer). If you've never done it before, the method couldn't be simpler:

Peel and core several apples and slice or cut into chunks (this is super-easy if you have an apple peeler/corer/slicer machine, as I do). Place in a saucepan with a little water (1/4 cup or so). Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until apples are very tender. They will start to fall apart as you stir. Mash with your spoon or a masher to the desired consistency. If you want it very smooth, put it through a food mill or sieve.

Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes

Did you freeze blueberries last summer when they were in season? If so, this is a great way to use them--along with local milk, eggs, and maple syrup, of course. These are a little denser and chewier than standard pancakes, but in a good way.

1 cup milk
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup frozen blueberries
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs, well beaten
½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 T brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
Maple syrup for topping

In a medium bowl, combine the milk and rolled oats. Let soak about 5 minutes.

Stir all the remaining ingredients into the oatmeal and milk and blend well.

Cook the pancakes on a hot, lightly oiled skillet, turning when the top is bubbly. Keep cooked pancakes warm in the oven or on a covered plate until you finish making the rest.

Serve hot with good quality maple syrup.

Serves 2-3.

Variations: Substitute 1 tsp nutmeg for the cinnamon. Also, try chopped fresh apples in place of the blueberries.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Frozen Fruit Sorbet

I've developed some sorbet recipes over the years, but always for fresh fruit and always made in the summer.  But in a recent New York Times column, Mark Bittman included a recipe for sorbet made from frozen fruit, which got my attention--I froze a LOT of Clarkdale peaches this summer, plus some strawberries from the farmers market.  If you did, too (or blueberries or raspberries or whatever else was bounteous a few months back), you might want to check this out.  I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds easy and delicious.

Tortilla de Patatas - Variation with Garlic and Sage

If you read this blog regularly, you have no doubt figured out that I love garlic and sage together.  Last night I combined them in a variation on the Tortilla de Patatas recipe I posted a couple days ago, and I liked it even better than the standard version.  I used local fingerling potatoes, which were fantastic--the quality of the ingredients makes a huge difference in a simple dish like this.

1/4 cup olive oil
4-5 cups sliced potatoes (1/4-inch rounds)
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
5 eggs
2-3 tsp crumbled dried sage leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a heavy ovenproof skillet (10-inch is a good size).  Add the potatoes and fry until tender, turning frequently to keep them from sticking.  Add the garlic when the potatoes are almost done.

When the potatoes are tender, drain off all but about 2 Tbsp of the oil in the pan and remove from heat.  Turn on the broiler.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl and stir in the sage, salt, and pepper.  Add the potatoes and stir to coat.  Heat the skillet again and pour in the egg and potatoes.  Cover over medium heat, shaking frequently, until half set.  Finish under the broiler (just a few minutes will do).

Serve warm.

Serves about 4.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Garlicky Mashed Parsnips

I made this last night with some local parsnips.  The ones I had turned out to have a disappointingly bitter note to their flavor, but the rest of it came together nicely.  I'll be trying it again in the spring.

1 lb parnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1 head roasted garlic, cloves peeled
1/4 cup milk plus more to taste
2 Tbsp butter plus more if desired
Salt and pepper to taste

Steam or boil the parsnips until tender.  Mash in a bowl with the garlic, milk, and butter until they reach the desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper.  Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tortilla de Patatas

This is a classic Spanish dish served in tapas bars everywhere.  And at this time of year, we can make it here in Western Massachusetts with almost entirely local ingredients.  Enjoy!

1/4 cup olive oil
4-5 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced in 1/4-inch rounds
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 eggs
Salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a heavy ovenproof skillet (10-inch is a good size).  Add the potatoes and fry until tender, turning frequently to keep them from sticking.  Add the garlic and onions after a few minutes.

When the potatoes are tender, drain off all but about 2 Tbsp of the oil in the pan and remove from heat.  Turn on the broiler.

Beat the eggs and salt in a large bowl.  Add the potatoes and stir to coat.  Heat the skillet again and pour in the egg and potatoes.  Cover over medium heat, shaking frequently, until half set.  Finish under the broiler (just a few minutes will do).

Serve warm.

Serves about 4.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Roasted Winter Vegetables

This is another recipe that originated with my mother-in-law (she's a great cook!).  The particular combination of ingredients is very pleasing.  If you can't get local fennel, try some celery and a little apple in its place.  The walnut oil really adds something to the flavor, but if you don't have any, olive oil is fine.

1 smallish sweet potato, cubed
1 smallish bulb fennel, in wedges
8 oz. potatoes, cubed
6 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and halved (or quartered if very large)
4 large shallots, quartered (or 1 medium onion, in wedges)
3 Tbsp walnut oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (1 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp)
1 1/2 tsp salt (coarse if possible)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the vegetables with the walnut oil, 1 Tbsp of the balsamic vinegar, and the salt.  Spread in the pan and roast for 30-35 minutes.  When done, sprinkle the remaining 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar over them and serve.

Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pizza with Turkey, Sweet Potatoes, and Blue Cheese

Another use for leftover turkey!  Plus, of course, local sweet potatoes and cheese.  Some caramelized onions wouldn't go amiss here, though they would add an extra step in the preparation.

1 14-inch pizza crust
1/2 - 3/4 cup tomato sauce 
1 cup cooked sliced sweet potato
1 cup shredded cooked turkey
2-3 oz. crumbled blue cheese of your choice (Berkshire Blue, perhaps)
4-6 oz. shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Paint the unbaked pizza crust lightly with olive oil, using a pastry brush or your fingers (if using a pre-baked crust, no need).  Spread tomato sauce over the crust, then top with sweet potato, turkey, and blue cheese.  Sprinkle mozzarella over everything.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is cooked and cheese starts to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips

This recipe, which I adapted from one my mother-in-law gave me, is absolutely delicious.  Pick up some Red Fire Farm sweet potatoes and/or some locally grown parsnips and enjoy!  (Normally I prefer to eat parsnips in the spring, as their flavor is better after being in the ground for the winter--but this year we had such a long cold snap before the ground warmed up again that they should be pretty good now, too.)

2 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes and/or parsnips, peeled and cut into chunky spears
2 tsp olive oil (1 tsp + 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt (coarse if possible)
1/8 tsp cayenne or chili powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  

Combine 1 tsp olive oil, the salt, and cayenne or chili powder, and toss it with the sweet potatoes and parsnips.  Spread on a baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes.

Whisk together the maple syrup, cider vinegar, and remaining 1 tsp olive oil.  Brush it on the sweet potatoes and parsnips and roast for 10 more minutes, or longer if you'd like the veggies a little crispy around the edges.

Serves 4-6.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Leftover Turkey

Wondering what to do with leftover turkey?  Soup is one obvious answer, of course, but there's no need to limit yourself to the standard turkey/carrots/celery/onions/rice formula (at least, that's the standard formula I grew up with!), tasty as it is.  Why not try a curried version?  My mother-in-law made a fantastic chicken and rice soup a month or so ago with apples, fennel, basmati rice, and curry powder.  Or try shredded turkey in chili, maybe with lentils and white beans for something a little different.  Pot pie is always a good option.  Or how about pizza with tomato sauce, turkey, gorgonzola, and sliced onion?

Quiche with Dried Tomatoes and Feta

With local eggs, milk, and cheese easily available, quiche has a great start on being a local-centered dish.  I added local onions and garlic, dried tomatoes from my garden, and oregano from my potted plant.  Yum!

1 9-inch pastry shell
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup dried tomatoes
1-2 Tbsp fresh oregano or 1-2 tsp dried
1/2 cup crumbled feta
4 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375. Pre-bake the pie crust for about 15 minutes (weight it down with pie weights if using homemade). 

Rehydrate the tomatoes by soaking in boiling water for several minutes.  Drain and chop.

Saute the garlic in olive oil for about 2 minutes. Add garlic and onion and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes and oregano and saute a moment longer.  Spread in the bottom of the pie crust and sprinkle feta over it.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. Pour into the pie shell. Bake quiche for about 35 minutes, until cooked through.

Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Veggie Pot Pie

There is something so satisfying about pot pie on a chilly night. This vegetarian version is chock full of in-season root vegetables, and of course you can use local dairy products as well.  Instead of a pastry crust, I like to make it with a tangy yogurt-based biscuit topping.  Skip the pepper if you don't have any frozen.  And, of course, you can always add some turkey or chicken if you like (a good use for some of those Thanksgiving leftovers in a few days!).

1 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium potatoes, cubed
4-5 small turnips or rutabaga, cubed (about 2-3 cups)
1 large carrot, in ¼-inch rounds
1 green pepper, diced (from the freezer!)
1 Tbsp dried parsley or 1/4 cup frozen
1-2 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2-3 Tbsp white flour
¾ cup milk, room temperature

1 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup plain yogurt
¼ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 425˚. Oil a 2-quart casserole dish.

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the garlic and onions and sauté until the onions begin to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes, turnips, and carrots and sauté over medium heat, stirring often, until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add a little water if necessary to keep from sticking to the pan. Add the pepper and continue to sauté until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the parsley, tarragon, salt, and pepper, and stir.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and mix thoroughly. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the milk and stir continuously until the mixture thickens. Add a bit more milk if desired.

While the vegetables are cooking, make the dough for the crust. Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a medium bowl. Add the yogurt and mix until well blended. Add milk gradually until the dough becomes fairly easily spreadable.

Pour the vegetable mixture into the dish. Spread the dough over the top of the vegetables.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is cooked through and the pot pie is bubbly.

Serves 4-6.

1. Add tofu, chicken, or turkey.
2. Substitute 2 tsp dried oregano and 1-2 tsp dried thyme for the parsley and tarragon.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cardamom-Scented Root Vegetable Stew

This stew is based around carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and turnips or rutabaga, all available from local sources at this time of year. But the seasonings will take you somewhere a bit more exotic.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp grated or minced fresh ginger
2 Tbsp ground coriander
3 Tbsp ground cumin
¼ tsp turmeric
2 tsp cardamom
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
5-6 cups water
2 veggie bouillon cubes
½ cup dried red lentils
½ cup dried brown lentils
1 15-ounce can chickpeas
2 medium potatoes, cubed
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 small rutabaga or turnip, peeled and cubed (about 1 cup)
2 cups frozen peas

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions and cook over medium heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are soft, translucent, and slightly browned.

Stir in the garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, salt, and pepper. Sauté for another 2-3 minutes to roast the spices.

Add the water, bouillon cubes, red lentils, and brown lentils. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the chickpeas, potatoes, sweet potato, carrots, and rutabaga or turnip. Return the soup to a boil, then lower the heat again and simmer for at least 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. The red lentils will disintegrate somewhat, thickening the stew.

Add the peas and cook another 5-6 minutes until they are heated through. Taste the stew and adjust seasonings as needed.

Serves 4-6.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Spicy Tofu Hotpot

This is another great way to use local garlic, bok choy, and shiitake mushrooms. I got this recipe from my mother-in-law, and it is a favorite in our house.

Spicy Tofu Hotpot, all jarred up for a soup swap with friends

1-2 Tbsp sesame oil
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp grated or minced fresh ginger
10-12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
6-8 cups water
2 veggie bouillon cubes
1 Tbsp brown sugar
¼ - 1/3 cup soy sauce
½ - 1 tsp chili paste (optional)
1 medium bunch bok choy, coarsely chopped (about 6 cups)
1 14-ounce package firm tofu, cubed
4 ounces angel hair, broken in 2-inch lengths

Heat the sesame oil in a large soup pot. Sauté the garlic and ginger over medium-high heat for about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. They will absorb all the oil.

Add 6 cups of water and the bouillon cubes to the pot. Stir in the brown sugar, soy sauce, and chili paste. Cover and bring to a boil.

When the water is boiling, add the bok choy and tofu to the pot. Lower the heat and simmer until the bok choy is tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the angel hair and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes.

If needed, add additional water and adjust seasonings. Serve hot.

Serves 4-5.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Squash for Thanksgiving

Local winter squash is an obvious candidate for the Thanksgiving table. There are zillions of things you could do with it, but here are a few ideas.

For a fairly simple side dish, try:
1. roasting cubes of butternut with garlic, fresh sage, and olive oil
2. cook and mash with roasted garlic, maybe also sage or thyme
3. roast acorn or delicata halves with a drizzle of maple syrup and serve with rind intact
4. if your're feeling bolder and your guests are up for something non-standard, try roasting or mashing with Indian spices; for a tamer variation on this, just use cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom, or even just cardamom

If you're feeling more ambitious about the squash, try:
1. Roasting and stuffing acorn squash with a savory combination of grains, herbs, nuts, and dried fruit (perhaps cranberries, pecans, wild rice, and sage)
2. make a savory pumpkin/squash pie - skip the sweet spices and sugar and sage and garlic or Indian seasonings
3. Make squash soup. Lots of possibilities here. One year a friend brought a North African inspired soup with pumpkin, tomato, and peanuts.
4. Try a Thai curry with a coconut based sauce for chunks of simmered squash.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes/Rutabaga

My husband's family has a rutabaga tradition at the holidays. It has two parts: the first is that they always have rutabaga and the second is that they always complain about it. While the purists in the family insist that it must be served straight up, others have been happy to experiment over the years. This is one preparation that is actually quite delicious, even if you're not really into rutabaga.

1 1/2 - 2 lbs potatoes, rutabaga, or combination
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 head roasted garlic, each clove removed from skin
1-3 Tbsp butter
¼ - ½ cup milk

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and/or rutabaga and ½ tsp of salt. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes.

Drain the potatoes/rutabaga and put them back in the pot. Add the garlic and mash the mixture together well. Add milk and butter to achieve desired consistency.

Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bok Choy and Shiitake Stir-Fry

The shiitakes from New England Wild Edibles were excellent--silky and flavorful when cooked. I combined them with chicken and baby bok choy from my garden for a delicious stir-fry last night. I think the chicken worked particularly well with the greens and mushrooms, but you could also certain use tofu, tempeh, or another protein of your choice. Or, I suppose, just do the bok choy and shiitakes as a side dish. Serve this over rice.

2 Tbsp sesame oil
1-1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
6-7 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp minced ginger
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
6-8 cups bok choy or baby bok choy, roughly chopped
1/4 - 1/3 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1-2 tsp Asian chili paste or sauce (optional)
Thickener: 2 tsp cornstarch + 1 Tbsp water

Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet. Add the chicken and stir-fry over high heat until cooked through. Set the chicken and its juices aside in a bowl.

Add a little canola or more sesame oil to the pan and add the garlic, ginger, and shiitakes. Stir-fry over medium-high heat until the mushrooms are tender. Add the bok choy and cook until it starts to wilt. Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chili paste (if using) and continue to cook until the bok choy is fully wilted. Stir in the thickener and cook for another moment or two, until the sauce thickens, then remove from heat.

Serve over rice.

Serves 3-4.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Local Produce at Green Fields Market

Usually my husband does the grocery shopping, but for one reason and another, I ended up doing it myself this weekend. With summer's bounty well behind us, it seemed like a good time to check out what produce was available from local sources. GFM makes an effort in this area, of course, but I was still surprised at just what a variety was available. Obvious things like different kinds of squash and greens, of course, but also sunchokes, parsley, carrots, potatoes, turnips, and lots more. The two surprise highlights for me were sweet potatoes (from Red Fire Farm in Granby) and shiitake mushrooms (from New England Wild Edibles in Colrain). There were also portabella and crimini mushrooms from Pennsylvania--not exactly local, but not that far, either. That was great news to me because I am not a wild mushroom hunter and was starting to miss mushrooms in general. I bought some of the shiitakes (though I had to put a few back when I realized they were so meaty and dense that I had initially loaded my bag with over $14 worth!) and will use them in a stir-fry later this week with some of the baby bok choy still flourishing in my garden.

Quiche with Greens and Feta

This made for a nice, easy Sunday night dinner. Local eggs, milk, and cheese are easy to come by, and greens are in season now--I used chard from the garden. Spinach would be good too, or even kale or collards.

1 9-inch pastry shell
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups coarsely chopped chard
1/2 cup crumbled feta
3 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375. Pre-bake the pie crust for about 15 minutes (weight it down with pie weights if using homemade).

While the crust pre-bakes, saute the garlic in olive oil for about 2 minutes. Add chard and saute until wilted. Spread chard in bottom of pie crust. Sprinkle feta over it.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. Pour over the chard and feta. Bake quiche for about 35 minutes, until cooked through.

Serves 3-4.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Slow Cooker Lamb Cacciatore

Chicken cacciatore is the classic, of course, but I didn't have any chicken in the freezer so I thought I'd try it with lamb. Delicious! I used lamb riblets from Crabapple Farm, but this should work with chops or shoulder chops or any other type of bone-in cut that comes in smallish pieces. This recipe involves one big cheat in the form of bottled tomato sauce, but if you have your own homemade, by all means use it! Something with a fairly classic flavor is good--like simple marinara, tomato basil, or mushroom. I took green peppers out of the freezer and added onions that I stocked up on from the Farmers Market before it ended.

16-20 oz. bottled tomato sauce
1 medium onion, sliced lengthwise
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 green bell peppers, diced
Lamb for 4 servings (frozen is fine)
Salt and pepper to taste

Spread half of the tomato sauce, the onion, garlic, and pepper in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the lamb on top (you can take it straight from the freezer). Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the lamb. Cook on Low for 7-8 hours. Serve over rice or pasta.

Serves about 4.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

This was my first big use of veggies from the freezer. If you have time, throw together some biscuits between adding the pasta and serving.

2/3 cup dried white beans
2/3 cup dried chickpeas
2 bell peppers, diced
2 cups carrot rounds
2-3 cups chopped tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tsp dried oregano
2-3 tsp dried basil
2 cups vegetable bouillon
3/4 cup dried pasta (elbows or orzo work well)
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan for topping (optional)

Soak beans and chickpeas overnight in plenty of water. In the morning, drain, rinse, and place in slow cooker.

Add all ingredients except pasta and salt to the slow cooker with the beans and chickpeas. Add enough water to comfortably cover. Cook all day on low, or else on high for a few hours, then on low until ready to eat. When beans are tender, add salt.

Add pasta about 20-30 minutes before you are ready to eat. Top with grated Parmesan at the table if desired.

Serve 5-6.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Garlicky Greens

This an easy and delicious way to serve greens as a side dish--which, incidentally, allows you to use up a lot of them at once if you are blessed with an overabundance.

6-8 cloves garlic, minced
6-8 cups coarsely chopped greens (kale, chard, spinach, etc)
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the greens, in batches if necessary, and saute until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash with Pasta

Winter squash and roasted garlic are a sweet and savory match made in heaven. Here they are combined in a full main dish. If you are using small heads of garlic from your garden or the farmers market (the type with only 4 or 5 cloves), you may want to use more than the amount called for.

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1-2 heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 tsp lemon juice
1-1 ½ tsp salt
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tsp dried sage, or 1-2 Tbsp minced fresh sage
1 lb dried pasta (rotini, shells, or the like)
1 cup walnut pieces (optional)
1-1/2 cups minced Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400˚.

Place the squash, onion, and garlic in a roasting pan. Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over them and mix well. Sprinkle with the salt, pepper, and sage and toss to insure that everything is well coated.

Roast the squash mixture for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Stir once or twice while it cooks.

While the squash mixture is cooking, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water. At the same time, if using the walnuts, toast them in a toaster oven (on a tray) or in a dry skillet until they start to brown and become aromatic.

When everything is cooked, toss the squash mixture together with the pasta in a large bowl. Sir in the Parmesan and, if using, the toasted walnut pieces. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Variation: Substitute 3 cups cooked barley for the pasta.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mom's Pumpkin Pie

I have always made pumpkin pie by this recipe, which comes from my mother. It's very good, but I think this year I might experiment a little bit, perhaps starting by using local cream in place of the evaporated milk. This pie freezes nicely after baking.

2 cups cooked mashed pumpkin or other winter squash
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 12-ounce can evaporated whole milk
1 deep 10-inch pie crust or 2 shallow 8- or 9-inch crusts (unbaked)

Preheat the oven to 400°.

In a large bowl with high sides, combine the pumpkin, white sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves with an electric mixer on medium speed.

Add the eggs and evaporated milk to the bowl with the pumpkin and continue to mix on medium speed until everything is well combined.

Pour the pumpkin filling into the piecrust(s).

Bake the pie(s) for about 50 minutes, until a knife inserted halfway between the center and the edge comes out clean. Cook on a rack.

Makes 1 deep 10-inch pie or 2 shallow 8- or 9-inch pies. Serves 8-10.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Local Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is coming right up, and what a great time to focus on local foods! By definition and tradition, the meal is all about what's in season in Massachusetts. I'll post some good recipes here as the holiday approaches. In the meantime, this would be a good time to order your turkey from Diemand Farm. I know you can do this at Fosters in Greenfield, and I imagine other places as well.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pumpkin Ginger Bread

This is one of my favorite fall and winter treats. I always make this as a bread, but it's just as easy to make as muffins--just shorten the baking time (how much depends on the size of your muffins). I know that ginger is hardly a local product, but the pumpkin, milk, and eggs can be.

1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
¾ cup brown sugar
1 cup mashed cooked pumpkin (or other winter squash)
½ cup chopped candied ginger

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Grease and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then add the milk, vanilla, and oil and whisk together. Add the brown sugar and whisk until it is well blended. Add the pumpkin and whisk until fully blended. Stir in the candied ginger.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Fold together gently until just mixed.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the bread cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing, then cool the rest of the way on a rack.

Makes one loaf.

Variation: Substitute dried cranberries for the candied ginger.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pizza with Curried Greens and Onions

This might sound like an odd combination, but it works surprisingly well and it's another good use for cool weather greens. You let the onion caramelize a bit to bring out its sweetness, and fennel seeds add an intriguing note to the curry. A whole wheat crust is ideal for this pizza.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, in long, thin slices
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
¼ tsp fennel seeds (optional)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Dash nutmeg
Dash turmeric
½ tsp garam masala (optional)
5-6 cups chopped fresh chard, spinach, or kale
¼ - ½ cup chopped cilantro (fresh or frozen, optional in a pinch)
¾ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¾ cup tomato sauce, or sliced fresh tomatoes
1 14-inch pizza crust, preferably whole wheat
4-6 ounces shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450˚.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until it begins to caramelize and turn brown, about 6-7 minutes.

Add the garlic and ginger and sauté another minute. Add the fennel seeds (if using), cumin, coriander, nutmeg, turmeric, and garam masala (if using), and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the greens and continue to sauté until they are well wilted and tender, about 3-5 minutes. Add salt and pepper and stir well.

Spread the tomato sauce over the pizza crust. Cover the sauce with the greens mixture, then top with cheese.

Bake 15-18 min, until cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Kale

Another hearty pasta dish for autumn. Use canned, frozen, or fresh tomatoes if you still have some. I have more kale in the garden than I know what to do with, and there is plenty available right now from local growers.

1 lb dry pasta
1 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cups chopped tomatoes
Dried basil to taste
Dried oregano to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
5-6 cups chopped kale, or more if you like
Grated Parmesan for topping

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta.

While preparing the pasta, start to brown the sausage in a large pot. When a little fat starts to render, add the garlic and onion. When the sausage is cooked, add the tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.

After the sauce has simmered, add the kale and cook until tender. Mix with the cooked pasta or serve on top, topped with grated Parmesan.

Serves 5-6.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Green Salad with Apples, Walnuts, and Blue Cheese

Farmers in the Valley will be growing lettuce and other greens in cold frames and hoop houses into at least December. The apple harvest is coming to an end, but local apples will be available for a good while yet. Combine them in this salad with some blue cheese from a local producer and add some nuts for a delicious fall salad.

6 cups torn lettuce or mixed salad greens
1 medium apple, preferably on the tart side
1 cup walnut pieces, lightly toasted (or try pecans)
2 ounces crumbled blue cheese of your choice

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Top with salad dressing of your choice (a vinaigrette is good).

Serves 4-6.

Halloween Ideas?

Halloween is coming right up and I'm wondering if anyone has any good ideas for treats to give out that come from a local source but will be acceptable to parents worried about safety. If you do, please share!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pasta With Sausage and Winter Squash Sauce

This is a good fall meal, savory and satisfying. Try sausage from Bostrom's Farm in Greenfield or Not Your Ordinary Farm in Guilford, Vermont (available at the Greenfield Farmers Coop on High St). Leeks, garlic, and squash grown locally are plentiful right now. I still have fresh sage growing in my garden--it's pretty cold hardy. I use cream from Mapleline Farms in Hadley. For a lighter version of this sauce, you could reduce or omit the cream and add some more milk.

1 lb dry pasta such as linguine
5 medium leeks, white part only, sliced in thin rounds
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb chorizo or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
3 cups cooked and mashed winter squash
¾ cup heavy cream
1 cup milk, plus more as desired
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp minced fresh sage leaves
1-2 tsp lemon juice

Heat a pot of water and cook the pasta. While the water heats and the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce.

Heat a large skillet, then start to brown the sausage, breaking it up as it cooks. When it starts to release some fat, add the leeks and garlic and cook until tender. Stir in the winter squash and lower heat to medium. Stir in the cream and milk. If desired, add more milk for a thinner sauce. Add salt, pepper, sage and lemon juice and stir well. Serve over or tossed with pasta.

Serves 4-6.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Squash, Feta, and Onion Pizza

If you have some cooked winter squash sitting in the fridge, this is a good use for it. Or cook a medium acorn or similarly sized squash. Squash, onions, garlic, feta, and sage are all easily available from local sources right now.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
1-2 tsp crumbled dried sage or 1 Tbsp minced fresh sage leaves
½ tsp salt
¼ - ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ -2 cups cooked winter squash, mashed
1 14-inch pizza crust
¾ - 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
3-4 ounces shredded mozzarella (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450˚.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent but still slightly crunchy, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, sage, salt, and pepper, and sauté another 2-3 minutes, until the lemon juice is mostly evaporated.

Spread the mashed squash evenly over the pizza crust. Top with the onion and garlic mixture. Spread crumbled feta over everything. If desired, top with shredded mozzarella.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is crisp and the feta and onions begin to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Variation: Substitute 2 tsp oregano and ¼ - ½ tsp red pepper flakes for the sage.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Roasted Garlic

This is a good time of year to get local garlic. And so many fall and winter dishes benefit from the addition of roasted garlic. I like to do at least a few heads at once and then keep it around for a bit, since it always seems like too much time and too much waste to roast a single head at a time. I have not tried freezing roasted garlic yet, but I bet it would work quite well. I think you would want to either puree it or else freeze individual cloves on a tray before putting them into a bag.

A few things I like to do with roasted garlic: mash or puree and add to mashed potatoes or roasted winter squash (a nice option for the Thanksgiving table), put whole or halved cloves on pizza, puree or mash and use as a spread.

Preheat the oven to 325°.

Cut the top third off each head to expose the cloves. Place the heads in a baking dish and add water so that it comes about a third of the way up the heads. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the heads.

Cover with foil and bake about an hour, until the garlic is soft and tender.

To remove cloves from their skin, allow the heads to cool until they can be handled comfortably, then separate the cloves from the head and squeeze each one out with your hands. Warning: this is a messy process.

If not using the garlic immediately, it will keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a few days.

One More Farmers Market Tomorrow

It turns out I was misinformed about the Greenfield farmers market ending last weekend--there is one more tomorrow! Get out there and stock up!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Roxbury Russets...Yum!

Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield grows about 35 different kinds of applies, including several heirloom varieties. Roxbury Russets might just be my favorites--tart (but not too tart), crisp, and flavorful. I cut one up and added it to my oatmeal this morning, about two minutes before it was done, just enough time to soften the apples up a bit. Delicious!

If you want to sample Clarkdale's many apple varieties yourself, head over there for CiderDays, coming up next weekend Nov. 1 & 2 - lots of fun apple and cider-related tastings and activities all over Franklin County.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

Lots of lovely potatoes have been available at the farmers market, and many stores carry local ones through the year. This recipe is one of my favorite uses of good potatoes. My potted rosemary made it through the 23-degree night we had recently, when I forgot to bring it inside, but it won't take much more cold than that, so it will be moving indoors before long. I always keep a rosemary plant, as the fresh leaves are so much better than dried--and it makes it easy to get fresh local rosemary year round! These potatoes work equally well at dinner or brunch.

4 medium potatoes, cubed
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp fresh rosemary
½ - ¾ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup of olive oil

Preheat oven to 425˚.

Place the potatoes and garlic in an ovenproof roasting pan (with room for the potatoes to form a single layer). Sprinkle the fresh rosemary, salt, and pepper over the potatoes. Toss with olive oil until everything is evenly coated.

Roast, uncovered, for 45-60 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the potatoes are tender. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves about 4.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Freezing Peppers

In anticipation of the frost that came Friday night (and Saturday night, and Sunday night, and Monday night...I think winter is coming), I pulled up our pepper plants by the roots and hung them upside down inside with the peppers still on them. Left this way a couple days, they ripened up a bit more. Then I seeded the peppers, cut them into quarters, and packed them into freezer bags in handy quantities. Peppers freeze very nicely, and do not need blanching or any other sort of treatment. Hot peppers can even be frozen whole. No need to thaw before cooking, just chop as desired and toss them into whatever you are making.

Freezing Greens

By the way, if you want to freeze greens like bok choy, the best way to do it is to stir fry first, then pack into freezer bags. The end result will have better texture and flavor, as well as more nutrients, than if you try to blanch them.

Bok Choy and Chicken Stir Fry

As I anticipated, the weekend's frost finally did in the last of the tender vegetables. But the greens are still flourishing--kale, chard, mizuna, and baby bok choy. Last night I picked a bunch of the latter and made a tasty stir fry. If you use regular bok choy, chop it roughly. If you use baby bok choy like I did, you can leave the leaves whole, which is nice aesthetically. Serve this over rice.

1 Tbsp sesame oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp minced or grated ginger
1 or more hot peppers, seeded and minced
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
1 large head bok choy, or several heads of baby bok choy
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp corn starch, plus enough soy sauce to make a thin paste

Heat the oil in a wok or very large skillet. Add the garlic, onion, and ginger and cook for 1 minute or so. Add the chicken and stir fry until cooked through. Add the bok choy, soy sauce, and vinegar and cook until the bok choy is wilted. Stir in the corn starch mix and cook until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and serve.

Serves 3-4.

Variation: Substitute tofu or tempeh for the chicken. If using tofu, steam or fry it first--or marinate in soy sauce and broil for a few minutes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Apple & Asian Pear Crisp

I picked up some Asian pears at the farmers market the other weekend. I combined two of them with apples in a crisp, figuring their similar texture would work well. It did.

3 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 Asian pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 - 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
5 Tbsp cold unsalted butter (in small pieces), plus more for the pan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly butter an 8x8 pan or 10-inch deep dish pie pan.

In a large bowl, toss the fruit with the lemon juice and some of the cinnamon. Transfer to the buttered pan.

In a food processor, combine all other ingredients and the remaining cinnamon and pulse until crumbly but not powdered (you can also do this by hand with a pastry cutter or two knives, but it's harder). Spread over the fruit.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until topping is crisp and fruit is bubbly. Serve warm or hot.

Serves about 6.

Middle Eastern Style Lentil Soup with Greens

This is what I did yesterday with part of the cilantro bunch I saved out to use fresh, along with chard from the garden, which has survived the last new nights' frost just fine. This is a quick and easy recipe.

1 cup dried brown lentils
½ cup dried quinoa
7-8 cups water
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 Tbsp ground cumin
2 veggie bouillon cubes
4-5 cups coarsely chopped chard (leaves only)
1 – 1 ½ cups chopped fresh cilantro, loosely packed
¼ cup lemon juice
1-2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the lentils and quinoa in a soup pot with about 7 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes.

Add the garlic and onions to the pot. Add the cumin and bouillon cubes. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the onions and garlic are very tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the chard, cilantro, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. If needed, add more water to reach the desired consistency. Simmer until the greens are tender, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

Serves about 4.

Freezing Cilantro

This weekend I scooped up three big end-of-season bunches of cilantro from The Kitchen Garden at the farmers market (3 for $5!). I saved one to cook with this week, but the other two were destined for the freezer. I chopped leaves and upper stems in the food processor, then packed them tightly into ice cube trays and added just enough water to hold it all together. Once frozen, I transferred the cubes to a freezer bag for use one or two at a time.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Savory Squash Pancakes

I came up with this idea a couple years ago when I was searching for a) a way to use all the squash coming in my CSA box and b) something like potato pancakes but a little healthier. The cilantro is important, so make these now while it is still (just barely) available locally. You can substitute other squash for the butternut, but it needs to be smooth skinned for easy peeling.

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1 medium onion, minced
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ - 1/3 cup chickpea flour or whole wheat flour
1-2 Tbsp garam masala or curry powder
½ - ¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Plain yogurt for topping
Additional topping ideas: savory chutneys, fresh cilantro, scallions, etc.

Grate the squash (this is easiest done with a food processor if you have one).

Mix all ingredients except the toppings together in a large bowl.

Heat the oil in a large skillet or two. Make the pancakes about ¼-inch thick and 4-5 inches in diameter. Cook each one for about 4 minutes on each side, until nicely browned and cooked through. Keep pancakes warm in the oven or on a covered plate until they are all done.

Serve hot. Top with plain yogurt, savory chutneys, chopped fresh cilantro, sliced fresh scallions, etc.

Serves 3-4.

Farmers Market Ending

I don't know about other farmers markets in the valley, but the Greenfield one is happening for the last time tomorrow. The weather looks like it will be good, so be sure to get there and stock up on whatever you have room to store!

It also looks like we'll probably have frost for the next few nights, so you can be sure that farmers who have escaped a freeze so far will be out harvesting whatever is left in the fields and bringing it to market.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Curried Squash Soup

I've been postponing winter squash because I figure I'll be eating it all winter and I have been wanting to stretch out the summer veggies as long as possible. But I can't deny that squash is most definitely in season, filling the tables at the farmers market. This recipe calls for butternut, but you could substitute just about any type of winter squash. Those with smoother textures are best. The silken tofu called for is entirely optional--I use it when I want to add some extra protein and substance to the soup; it disappears completely. This freezes nicely if you leave out the yogurt--you can add it upon thawing and reheating.

1 large butternut squash
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp grated or minced fresh ginger
1-2 Tbsp ground cumin
2-3 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ - 1 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cayenne
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp salt
1 14-ounce package silken tofu (optional)
2-4 cups water
1 cup plain yogurt, plus more for topping if desired
1-2 tsp garam masala for topping (optional)

Cut the squash in half the long way and remove the seeds and strings. You can roast it, steam it, or pressure cook it. To roast, place the squash halves face down in roasting pan with about half an inch of water in the bottom. Cook for 45-60 minutes at 425°, until tender. To steam, cut into large chunks, then steam in a large pot for about 30 minutes, until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Or, pressure cook for about 12 minutes on high pressure. Allow the squash to cool.

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onions and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Add the ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg, cayenne, black pepper, and salt, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes to roast the spices. Remove from heat.

When the squash is cooked and has cooled enough to handle, scoop the flesh out of the skin and place it in bowl with the tofu (if using) and the garlic and onion mixture. Use a food processor to blend these until smooth, adding water to thin the mixture. If you steamed or pressure cooked the squash, you can use the water from the pot for this purpose. You may need to process the soup in batches.

Return the blended soup to the pot and add more water if necessary to reach the desired consistency. It should be fairly thick.

Return the pot to the stove and heat the soup through. Remove from the heat and fold in the yogurt, combining thoroughly (it is important to add the yogurt right at the end to avoid curdling).

Serve hot. If desired, top with an additional dollop of yogurt or a sprinkling of garam masala.

Serves 4-6.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans and October Veggies

For nights when I know there won't be time to cook, I have found my slow cooker to be a life saver. Most often I use it to cook beans of some sort. This is what I made yesterday. Peppers from my garden, potatoes from The Kitchen Garden, garlic and onions from somewhere local but I can't remember where. This is moderately spicy--reduce the chipotles to one if you prefer something milder.

2 1/2 cups dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 large bell peppers, diced
2 large potatoes, diced
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, seeded and minced
1 cup salsa (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine everything except the salt and pepper in a large slow cooker. Add water until the beans are completely covered. Cook on high until beans are tender (the time will vary depending on how old your beans are) or you get home--they do fine continuing to cook for quite a while after they become tender. Add salt and pepper to taste at the end. You could serve this as a soup, but I like to strain it and serve over rice with some cheddar cheese on top.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pureed Potato Soup with Kale and Bacon

This is one of the variations on the Potato Leek Soup with Kale that I posted a week or so ago. I made this last night with potatoes and leeks from The Kitchen Garden, kale from the garden, and bacon from Bostrom's Farm.

Olive oil for sauteing
3 large leeks, sliced in thin rounds
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs potatoes, cubed
4-5 cups water or stock, plus more as needed
1 chicken bouillon cube (if using water)
1 cup milk (optional)
6-8 cups coarsely torn kale
4 strips cooked bacon, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the leeks and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the potatoes and the stock or water and bouillon cube. There should be enough liquid to just cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat. Add the milk if using, and puree (this is easiest with an immersion blender, but you can also use a regular blender or food processor). Return to the heat and add the kale and bacon. Simmer until kale is tender, just a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves about 6.

What to Do with Pesto

Wondering what to do with all that pesto in the freezer now that it's made? Or wondering whether it's worth making to put in the freezer? Well, not only is pesto great on pasta (add some beans or sauteed chicken if you like) as a quick meal, but it's also excellent with almost any kind of grilled or broiled meat. My friend Iris made broiled lamb chops for us a couple weeks ago, coated with pesto and breadcrumbs, and they were fantastic. Pesto also makes a tasty pizza topping, and it's good on fresh bread or toast, perhaps with a slice of tomato (while they last!) and fresh mozzarella. The real problem is figuring out what not to do with it...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Parsley-Mint Pesto

If you have parsley producing wildly in your garden, this is a delicious way to use it. I made a couple batches of this over the weekend to go in the freezer.

You can also freeze parsley by itself--just chop and stick it in a freezer bag. Or put it in an ice cube tray with a small amount of water, then move the cubes to a bag when frozen. Frozen parsley is nearly as good as fresh.

3 cups chopped parsley
3/4 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 oz. feta
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until fairly smooth.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Beans and Greens

I seem to be moving from "things to do with tomatoes and eggplant" to "things to do with kale." The season must be changing. So here's another thing to do with kale, or any other tasty green. For this use, I like ones that stay a little more robust when cooked, like kale or collards, but there's no real reason you couldn't use chard or something similar as well.

This is so simple it doesn't need a formal recipe. I cooked about a pound of white beans in the slow cooker all day with some sage and a few garlic cloves and bay leaves. Just before dinner, I minced the cloves of an entire head of garlic and sauteed them along with 8 cups or so of coarsely chopped kale. While doing that, I boiled up 1/2 lb of pasta. I drained the beans (removing the seasonings) and mixed it all together, adding plenty of salt and pepper and a generous drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil. This made enough to serve 4-5.

Sweet Italian sausage would probably make a nice addition to this, but would change the character of the dish.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tomato, Kale, and Lentil Stew

A good use for late season tomatoes and the kale that continues to flourish in my garden. This recipe makes a big batch, and it freezes beautifully. It's a good hearty dish for colder weather.

1/2 cup dried pearl barley
1/2 cup dried quinoa
3/4 cup dried brown lentils
6-8 cups water
2 veggie bouillon cubes
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chopped seeded tomatoes
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
6 cups coarsely chopped kale
2 Tbsp dry sherry
¼ cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste

Combine the barley, quinoa, and lentils in a large soup pot with about 6 cups of water and the bouillon cube. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the grains and lentils are tender, about 25 minutes. It may be necessary to add more water during the cooking process.

While the lentils and grains cook, you can chop the remaining ingredients. Add the garlic, onions, and tomatoes as soon as they are ready. When the grains and lentils are just tender, add the kale cook until it begins to wilt, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the sherry, soy sauce, coriander, oregano, and black pepper. Cook until the kale is tender, another 5 minutes or so. Taste and add salt if desired. Adjust seasonings if needed.

Serves at least 6.

Note: The grains will continue to absorb water when the stew is done cooking. Leftovers may require the addition of more liquid.

Whole Wheat Apple Spice Muffins

Crabapple Farm is experimenting with growing wheat and a few other grains (oats and barley, I think). We bought some of their wheat berries at the farmers market a couple weeks back. This weekend I ground some into flour (okay, I'm a food nerd and have a flour mill) and made these muffins with apples from Clarkdale, milk from Mapleline, and Diemand Farm eggs. Despite using all whole wheat flour, these muffins are not at all heavy. With the freshly milled flour, they had a pleasantly crumbly texture.

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp ground ginger
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup canola oil
1 ½ cups milk
1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and chopped

Preheat the over to 400˚. Grease muffin tins to make 12 large muffins or 18 medium-sized ones.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger.

In a large bowl, combine the egg, vanilla, brown sugar, oil, and milk, and stir until the brown sugar is largely dissolved.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring just enough to combine and get rid of most of the lumps. Fold in the apple pieces.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Makes 12 large or 18 medium-sized muffins.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pizza with Fennel, Caramelized Onions, and Potatoes

After my last two fennel recipes, I still had some stalks left from the big bulb I bought last weekend. Here's how I used it up. I bet sweet potatoes or yams would also be good in place of the potatoes.

Olive oil
1 large onion, sliced lengthwise
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups thinly sliced potatoes
1 1/2 - 2 cups sliced fennel
2 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 14-inch pizza crust
4 oz. shredded mozzarella
1/2 cups grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat a couple teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet, then add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until the onions are nicely caramelized. Add the garlic and potatoes and cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until the potatoes are almost tender (you can speed this process by covering the pan between stirring). Add the fennel and cook another few minutes until tender. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Lightly paint the crust with olive oil, then top with mozzarella. Spread the fennel and potato mixture over the cheese, then sprinkle the Parmesan on top. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is crisp and cheese starts to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Italian Pesto

I also had a fair bit of Italian basil in the garden and made some more traditional pesto for the freezer as well. I generally use walnuts instead of the traditional pine nuts because they're less expensive yet still work well. But pine nuts are mighty tasty, too. Use good quality olive oil here--you can taste the difference.

6-7 cups loosely backed basil leaves
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup walnut pieces, lightly toasted
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as desired
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until fairly smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Add additional oil if desired.

To freeze this, I divided it in half and put each portion in a quart-size freezer bag. I spread it fairly flat and put it in the freezer. The large amount of surface area will make it faster to thaw (in a bowl of warm water) when I want to use it.

Thai Pesto

The basil season is very nearly over--time to harvest what you've got or stock up at the farmer's market and make pesto before it's gone. Danny Botkin from Laughing Dog Farm had a big basket of it at the market on Saturday, but the frost could come any time...

Until yesterday, I had a couple of enormous Thai basil plants in the garden. Next year I need to remember that Thai basil grows much bigger than Italian basil and I use less of it... So I decided to experiment with a pesto with Southeast Asian flavors. The result was pretty tasty. You could use it on pasta, or on rice noodles, over grilled or broiled meat or tofu, or probably even in a stir fry. The basil flavor is milder than traditional pesto, but pleasing just the same. I put a couple batches of this in the freezer.

4 cups loosely packed Thai basil leaves
1-2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup cashews, lightly toasted
1/2 - 3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp lime juice
1 hot pepper, seeded (or more to taste)
1/4 cup canola oil, plus more if desired

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until relatively smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired. For a more liquid pesto, add additional oil.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Useful Books

I just got a copy of The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food by Janet Chadwick. I had been looking for a good resource and this was mentioned in Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal Vegetable Miracle--I figured if it's good enough for Barbara, it's probably good enough for me. And so far I am favorably impressed. Lots of useful information, with different methods described for preparing each of many types of fruits, vegetables, and herbs--freezing, drying, canning, and root cellaring. For each method she gives a quick assessment of how fast it is and how good the end product is. Nice clear instructions, too, along with guidance on equipment and answers "what went wrong" questions.

Speaking of Animal Vegetable Miracle, I imagine most aspiring locavores have read it as well, but if you haven't, I recommend it. A thoroughly enjoyable, and inspiring, read. And while I'm on the subject of books, I also really enjoyed Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Autumn Pear Salad

Continuing on the pear theme... Combine sliced ripe pears with crumbled Gorgonzola and a sprinkling of toasted walnuts or pine nuts over a bed of arugula for an easy yet impressive fall salad made with ingredients in season locally. Dress with the vinaigrette of your choice. For more of a tossed salad, add lettuce to the mix. If you're not going to serve it immediately, toss the sliced pears with a little lemon juice to prevent browning. If you don't like or don't have Gorgonzola, try goat cheese--the effect is different but still lovely.

Potato Leek Soup with Kale

This a great warm-you-up soup for Fall or Spring when leeks are in season locally. It's great with new potatoes. I used leeks and potatoes from Shoestring Farm and garlic, kale, and dill from my garden. Milk from Mapleline Farm.

Dill, by the way, freezes beautifully for use during the winter. Just chop it up and freeze in a freezer bag. Or put it in ice cube trays with a little water, then transfer to a freezer bag when frozen.

Olive oil for sauteing
2 large leeks, sliced in thin rounds
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs potatoes, cubed
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4-5 cups water or stock, plus more as needed
1 vegetable bouillon cube (if using water)
6-8 cups coarsely torn kale
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Up to 3 cups milk

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the leeks and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the potatoes and continue to saute, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes or so. Stir in the flour until everything is well coated, and saute another 1-2 minutes. Add the water or stock and bouillon cube if using. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are tender. Add the kale and cook until tender. Add the dill and salt and pepper, then stir in the milk until the soup reaches the desired consistency.

Serves about 6.


1. Omit the dill and add cooked minced bacon (1/2 - 1 cup, or to taste).
2. Before adding the kale, puree the soup using an immersion blender.
3. Puree the soup, then make add bacon and omit the dill.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pear-Almond Galette

We just got our first pears of the season, ripe and juicy and delicious. I had some sliced on my oatmeal this morning, which was very tasty, but it also put me in mind of this recipe. A galette is a bit like a dessert pizza--a flat pastry crust with fruit or whatever on top. I developed this a few years ago and have found that it always gets a welcome reception. The almond extract in the crust really makes it special, and very fragrant. Now I just need a good excuse to make it...

As you'll see below, you can make the dough either by hand or in a food processor. There are lots of steps, but don't be daunted--it's not really that complicated.

Pastry Dough
1 ¼ cups white flour
½ tsp white sugar
½ tsp salt
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), very cold
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp ice water, plus more if needed
1 tsp almond extract

1 large ripe pear, peeled and sliced
3 Tbsp white sugar
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, in pea-sized chunks
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Up to 1/8 tsp cinnamon (optional)

To prepare the pastry dough by hand:
1. Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. Sprinkle chunks of butter over it, then cut the butter in using a pastry cutter or two knives.

2. Sprinkle the ice water and almond extract over the flour and butter mixture. Using the blade side of a rubber scraper, cut dough until it starts to form balls. If necessary, add additional ice water one teaspoon at a time to help the dough cohere. Be careful not to add so much water that the dough becomes sticky.

3. Press the dough with your hands to form it into a ball. The texture of the dough should be a bit rough, not smooth. Press it into a round disk, wrap it tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (and not more than 2 days).

To prepare the pastry dough with a food processor:
1. Put the flour, sugar, and salt into the food processor and process for 10 seconds to mix.

2. Add the butter in small chunks, scattered over the flour mixture. Pulse for 1-2 second intervals until nearly all the butter is pea-sized or smaller. You may need to scrape the sides once or twice.

3. Drizzle the ice water and almond extract over the flour and butter mixture. Pulse for 1-2 second intervals until there are no more dry patches in the dough and it starts to form small balls. Do not allow the dough to form a single mass in the food processor. Press the dough together with your fingers. If it does not cohere, sprinkle in an additional teaspoon of ice water and pulse several more times. Repeat if necessary. Be careful not to add so much water that the dough becomes sticky.

4. Remove the dough from the food processor and follow step 3 above.

To prepare the galette:
1. Preheat the oven to 425°.

2. Remove the pastry dough from the refrigerator. If it has been left for longer than 30 minutes, allow it to thaw briefly until it becomes more pliable.

3. Lay out a piece of waxed paper about 14 inches long on a flat surface and sprinkle it with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out in a circle or oblong shape to a thickness of about 1/8-inch. Transfer the dough to a cookie sheet and peel off the waxed paper.

4. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of sugar over the crust, leaving about 2 inches bare around the outside. Arrange the sliced pears densely over the crust, again leaving about 2 inches bar around the outside. Sprinkle the butter over the fruit, then sprinkle with the remaining sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon (if using).

5. Fold the outside edges of the crust up over the fruit. Pinch the corners together to prevent the pear juices from leaking while the galette bakes.

6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

7. Allow the galette to cool for at least a few minutes before serving.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Roasted Fennel, Red Pepper, and Eggplant - details

This turned out even more delicious than I hoped. Here's what I did:

1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed
2 medium red bell peppers, in chunks
1/2 large fennel bulb (or 1 medium bulb), in chunks
whole cloves from 2 heads of garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil and parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss all ingredients in a 9x13-inch pan. Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.

I served this over a risotto made with a little more basil and parsley and some Parmesan. Super-delicious. It would probably also be good with pasta, especially if some tomatoes were added to the roasting mix. In that case, I think I would use a larger quantity of herbs.

And the good news with the fennel was that that bulb I got from The Kitchen Garden was so big that I have plenty of leftovers for another meal. Yum!

Of the other ingredients, the eggplant, garlic, and herbs came from my garden and the red peppers came from Fairweather Farm.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Roasted Fennel, Red Pepper, and Eggplant

This weekend at the farmers market I bought a huge, gorgeous fennel bulb from the Kitchen Garden, and I've been weighing all the possible uses for it since then. I think I've settled on this for a plan: I'll slice it up and roast it with chunks of red pepper, cubed eggplant, and whole garlic cloves, tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper. I think it probably wants some sort of herb, but I haven't decided what yet. If I'm feeling ambitious, I'll make risotto to go with the vegetables.

One of my other favorite things to do with fennel is to make pasta with fresh tomatoes, fennel, garlic, basil, and sweet Italian sausage.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mediterranean Eggplant and Tomato Stew

This is what I'm going to make for dinner tonight--yet another way to use lots of fresh eggplant and tomatoes, which I am enjoying while they last... Especially appealing now as the weather gets cooler.

1/4 cup olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium eggplants, cubed
4-5 cups seeded and chopped tomatoes
3-4 cups cooked red beans (2 14-oz cans)
Dash of allspice
Dash of cayenne
2-3 tsp minced fresh sage
2 tsp minced fresh oregano
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Crumbled feta for topping

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the garlic and onion and saute 2-3 minutes. Add the eggplant cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is tender. Add the tomatoes, beans, allspice, and cayenne, and simmer until vegetables are all very soft. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until the parsley or cilantro is wilted. Serve hot, topped with crumbled feta.

Serves about 4.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fall arrived while we were gone

Well, we are back from vacation, a wonderful ten days with friends out in California. While we were gone, Fall settled in for good. Nights are getting pretty cold, though days are still lovely. The tomatoes in the garden are definitely winding down, though nearly everything else is still going strong. The eggplant plants are as tall as I am and producing beautifully. I wish I knew of a good way to preserve eggplant, but I don't (if anyone does, please tell me about it!), so we'll be eating a lot of it over the next few weeks. The peppers are finally ripening up, but a bunch have rotted as well. I think next year we will look a little harder for cool-tolerant, early ripening varieties and see if they do any better.

Now that we are back, I need to turn my focus back to putting up what I can from the garden. The kale will keep producing happily (I hope!) into November or December, but there is so much of it that I want to freeze some for use through the rest of the winter, too. One of our winter staples is potato soup with kale. I need to make pesto with all the basil that is going to flower. A bunch of it is Thai basil, so I think I'll experiment a bit with that--maybe a pesto with lime juice and hot pepper. Parsley needs to be chopped and frozen as well (it freezes beautifully with no treatment), and some also made into pesto with mint, feta and walnuts. Carrots to be blanched and frozen. So much to do...but it's fun, if I can just find the time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Going on vacation

I'll be gone 9/12 - 9/22. Posts will resume after I return! Happy eating in the meantime.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Black Bean Soup

A spicy soup with Southwestern flair. The weather has abruptly turned cooler, making soup more appealing. We had this for dinner last night, with tomatoes, bell peppers, hot pepper, chives, and cilantro from the garden. Onions from Crabapple Farm. Corn from Schmidt's that I froze a little while ago. If you have time to cook dried beans, they are definitely better, but I have to confess I usually use canned ones. With the new freezer, though, I have ambitions of cooking up large batches of beans and freezing small containers of them for use in recipes like this one. This soup is best with all the optional ingredients, but still pretty tasty without them.

I've been freezing most of the ingredients in this soup, so I'll be enjoying it again in the winter.

Olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 Tbsp ground cumin
5-6 cups cooked black beans (3 15-oz cans, drained and rinsed)
2 medium bell peppers (preferably ripe), diced
3 cups chopped tomatoes (seeded)
1 1/2 cups corn
1-2 chili peppers, seeded and minced
1-2 veggie bouillon cubes (optional)
1-2 Tbsp lime juice (optional)
1/4 cup chopped chives (optional)
1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add garlic and onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Stir in ground cumin. Add black beans, peppers, tomatoes, corn, and chili peppers, bouillon cubes if using, and enough water to generously cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer until vegetables are tender. Add lime juice, chives, cilantro if using, and salt and pepper. Serve.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Eggplant Parmesan Casserole

Our garden is cranking out eggplants of several varieties, so here is what I did with several long skinny ones last night, along with some more of the basil. You could also substitute zucchini or summer squash for some of the eggplant if desired. The breadcrumbs on top are nice, but you can skip them and just put more mozzarella on top if you like. This dish is much less elegant than real eggplant Parmesan, but it's also much less work.

1/4 cup olive oil (3 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp)
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1-2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or cayenne (optional)
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large eggplant, peeled, quartered, and cut in 1/4-inch slices
1 - 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh basil
2 cups good quality tomato sauce
4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 - 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Set aside about 2 tsp of the minced garlic if you plan to use the breadcrumbs. Heat 3 Tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet, then sauté the remaining garlic and the onion for about 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Stir in the oregano, red pepper flakes or cayenne (if using), salt, and pepper and sauté for an additional 30 seconds or so. Add the eggplant to the skillet and sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender but not mushy, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the basil and cook just until wilted. Remove eggplant mixture from heat.

If you are using the breadcrumbs, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a small skillet. Add the remaining 2 tsp of minced garlic and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the breadcrumbs and sauté over high heat until they are crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

In the bottom of a 1 1/2- or 2-quart casserole dish, spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce. For the next layer, spread half of the eggplant mixture. Top the eggplant with all of the shredded mozzarella and Parmesan (if using). Spread the remaining eggplant mixture over the cheese. Press down gently on the eggplant to compact the casserole somewhat. Top the second layer of eggplant with the remaining 1 cup of the tomato sauce. Spread the breadcrumbs over the tomato sauce.

Bake the casserole for about 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Drying Peaches

Well, the dried peaches came out great, so I think I'll do another quart. I didn't pre-treat them or sulfur them or anything, just sliced them and put them in the dehydrator. They held their color beautifully, and the flavor is sweet and concentrated. Texture is pleasantly chewy. I'll keep them in the freezer in small containers to remove and use one at a time. That should help preserve that great color and flavor.

If you're wondering about dehydrators, there are many variations on the market. Mine is a 425-watt Nesco with five trays that runs about $40. They come in variations of up to 1000 or so watts, so do watch the wattage when selecting one. That much more probably doesn't speed drying time enough to make up for the additional energy used per hour.

Dinner on the Grill

Last night I followed my own advice from last Friday and did a locavore's dinner on the grill. Pork chops from Bosford's farm and eggplant from my garden, plus bread from El Jardin and goat cheese from Goat Rising. Heavenly. The pork chops were notably good--juicy and flavorful. (See last Friday's post for the grilled eggplant recipe.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Freezing Peaches

This morning we went over to Clarkdale Farms and bought two 8-quart boxes of utility peaches. I sliced them up and packaged them in freezer bags. We now have enough peaches packaged up for winter to make several crisps/pies/cobblers. Yum! A few also went into the food dehydrator, where they are currently drying. If they come out well, maybe I'll do some more.

Ben Clark told us that they would have the big boxes of peaches probably for the rest of the week, but maybe not beyond--so if you want to freeze or can some yourself, get on over there. They're $14/box, which is a great deal, considering that the regular price is $6 for a 2-qt box. Some were bruised and a few had worms, but overall they were very usable with little waste.

Maple Cream Scones

Yesterday morning, while Donovan took a nap with Nate, I made myself a cup of tea and prepared to sit down with a book for some (rare! precious!) time to myself. But I had a hankering for a little something to go with the tea, and I had a cup or so of heavy cream sitting in the fridge that I knew needed to be used ASAP or it would go bad. So I concocted these scones and was very pleased with the result.

We always use Mapleline Farms cream (available at Green Fields Market and probably other places, too). In addition to being local, it's way better than anything you'll get from Hood or the like (a few months back I needed some and the co-op was out so we picked up some major-brand cream; it was very disappointing). I used Sidehill Farm yogurt and grade B maple syrup from Shoestring Farm (available at Green Fields Market and also the Greenfield farmers market).

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Whole Milk Maple yogurt
1/4 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add cream, yogurt and maple syrup and stir until just combined. Drop by large spoonfuls onto a baking sheet (I use a baking stone). Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown on top. Makes about 8-10 scones.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Grilled Eggplant and Summer Squash

This is quick, easy, and really good. With some sort of grilled meat (say, a nice steak from Wheelview Farm, encrusted with fresh herbs) and fresh bread (say, a loaf of the Rosemary Olive Oil bread from El Jardin Bakery, maybe with some oil for dipping), this rounds out a hot-weather meal nicely.

Grilled eggplant
Eggplant and/or summer squash/zucchini
Olive oil
Minced garlic
Balsamic vinegar

Combine about 4 parts olive with one part balsamic vinegar. Mix in as much garlic as you like (I like LOTS). You'll need about 1-2 teaspoons of this per slice of eggplant or squash, depending on how big they are.

Slice vegetables into 1/2-inch thicknesses. You can do it in rounds or the long way, it doesn't matter. Array the slices on a platter or cookie sheet. Brush the olive oil mixture over each one. You want decent coverage but not lots of extra oozing over the sides. Flip and brush the other side.

Put the veggie slices on the grill with the olive oil side down. Flip the slices when they start to get soft and are nicely browned on the bottom, around 4-5 minutes over medium-high heat. Serve hot or room temperature.