Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vietnamese Green Beans

Beans of all sorts are in season now. In our garden we have Romanos, a wide Italian variety with great flavor. But at the farmer's market last weekend I saw green ones, purple ones, yellow ones, and more. Any would be fine in this recipe, which is one of my favorite ways to use them. The onions are important, don't leave them out (I used sweet yellow ones from Crabapple Farm this time). I make this most often with tempeh (from Lightlife), but you could also do it with tofu, chicken, shrimp, etc. Or leave out the protein and serve as a side dish. You can leave the beans whole, which makes for a lovely presentation and easier prep, but it does make the dish a little harder to eat. Serve this over rice. Jasmine is good. Be sure to serve it with the Nuoc Cham (see below).

Canola oil
2 medium onions, sliced lengthwise
1 package tempeh, cubed
1 lb green beans, stemmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
8 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
Thickener: 1 Tbsp corn starch mixed with 1 1/2 Tbsp water

Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet. Add the onions and tempeh and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes. Add the beans and garlic and cook until beans are just tender (the time will vary with the type of beans). Add the soy sauce, water, salt and pepper, and thickener and cook until it forms a nice sauce. Remove from heat and serve. Top with Nuoc Cham at the table.

Serves about 4.

Nuoc Cham
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chili paste
2 Tbsp lime juice (ideally fresh)
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp julienned carrots (optional)
2 Tbsp chopped peanuts, lightly toasted (optional)

Combine all ingredients except for carrots and peanuts in a small jar and mix well. Let sit at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to mingle. When serving, if desired, top with carrots and peanuts. Leftover Nuoc Cham will keep for many weeks in a sealed container in the fridge. It's good with spring rolls, fried tofu, steamed veggies, etc. in addition to the green beans.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil and Sausage

I love basil, and I revel in its abundance in the garden all summer long. And what more natural companion for basil than tomatoes, of course? This is one of my most reliable ways to use a whole load of them at once when the garden is overflowing like it is right now. I like to use a variety of colors, for the visual appeal. The sausage I used is from Not Your Ordinary Farm in Guilford, VT (available for sale at the Greenfield Farmers Co-op).

1 lb cut pasta, such as shells or fusilli
1 lb sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
Cloves from one head of garlic, minced
About 8 cups seeded and chopped tomatoes (no need to peel)
2-3 cups loosely packed chopped basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan for topping (optional)

Cook the pasta in a pot of salted water. While it cooks, prepare the sauce.

Brown the sausage, breaking it up as you go, in a Dutch oven or other large pot. Pour off most of the fat, then add the garlic and saute for about two minutes. Add the tomatoes and lower the heat to medium.

You can cook the tomatoes anywhere from hardly at all to well cooked. The less you cook them, the more the end result will be like vegetables tossed with pasta. The more you cook them, the more it will be sauce--but a fairly juicy one, not thick and uniform.

When the tomatoes are cooked to your desired degree, add the basil, salt, and pepper and remove from heat. Toss with the cooked pasta. Serve topped with grated Parmesan if desired.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chipotle Corn and Potato Soup

Fresh sweet corn and new potatoes...yum. I put together this simple soup to highlight the flavors of those two ingredients. The corn came from Schmidt's Farm and the potatoes came from Shoestring Farm. The chives came from my garden. If you open a can of chipotles to make this, the remainder will keep for months in a sealed container in the fridge. You could also take this in a slightly different direction by substituting fresh hot peppers for the chipotles and adding chopped fresh cilantro at the last minute (both of which are currently in season!).

Olive oil to saute
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs new potatoes, cubed (leave skins on)
8-10 ears corn, shucked
1-2 chipotles in adobo sauce, seeded and finely minced (or more to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Snipped chives for garnish (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes, then add the potatoes. Add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer while you prepare the corn.

Using a large, sharp knife, remove the corn kernels from the cobs. I find the easiest (and least messy) way to do this is to break the ears in half first, then cut off the kernels over a plate or shallow bowl. Be sure to scrape the cobs well to get all the corn-y goodness.

Add the corn and chipotle(s) to the pot with the potatoes. Add additional water until you have a thick soup. Simmer for a few minutes. Serve hot, topped if desired with a sprinkling of fresh chives.

Serves 6-8 as a main course.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

Some other easy ways to serve up gorgeous ripe tomatoes in late summer:

Cut into wedges and arrange on a platter. Drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle with chopped fresh basil and a little salt. Or try fresh oregano in place of the basil.

Array in slices or wedges and drizzle with good olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar. Salt if desired.

For good slicers: Arrange on a platter and top each slice with a bit of goat cheese. Add olive oil if desired.

Slice and serve with good bread, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, and basil.

Greek Tomato Cucumber Salad

It's high season for tomatoes and cukes, and our garden is overflowing with both. This is a favorite way to use a lot at once. Use the most flavorful tomatoes you can get your hands on. I like to use a combination of different colors for the effect.

4 cups chopped cucumbers
4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup minced red onion

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss.

The amounts here are pretty arbitrary--you could easily increase or decrease the amount of veggies, and adjust the other ingredients accordingly.

For a different presentation, you could also slice the vegetables and arrange them on a platter, then sprinkle the other ingredients over them.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Gingery Peach Crisp

We've been loading up on peaches and blueberries at the farmers market lately (from Clarkdale and Fairweather Farm, respectively), eating our fill while the season lasts. We're planning to freeze some, too, so we can enjoy them this winter when we're really tired of apples. We've been eating them on our cereal in the morning and feeding them to our one-year-old son (who loves them both!), but there are lots of other great possibilities. Here's one easy favorite.

5-6 cups sliced peaches or nectarines (or substitute blueberries for up to 2 cups)
1/2 tsp corn starch
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 - 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
1/4 cup crystallized ginger
5 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, 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 corn starch. Transfer to the buttered pan.

In a food processor, combine all other ingredients 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. Great with ice cream, especially Snow's or Bart's Ginger.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pizza with Fresh Tomatoes, Feta, Mint, and Cilantro

I love pizza and I make it a lot. It's sort of a blank slate food form--start with a crust and you can put all manner of things on top. Here's my latest creation, which I have to say I was inordinately pleased with.

The tomatoes and herbs that are the highlights here came from my garden. The quality of the tomatoes is particularly important--all the more reason to use ones that are locally grown. For the record, I made this with a combination of Orange Banana and Black Cherry tomatoes.

One disclaimer: while I do make my own dough some of the time, for weeknight dinners I often rely on frozen dough balls purchased at Fosters. Off course, you can also use a Boboli or other prepared crust, though they're not exactly local. I'll share my own crust recipes another day.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup crumbled feta
3-4 oz. shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If using pizza dough (rather than pre-baked prepared crust), use a pastry brush or your fingers to paint in lightly with olive oil, then pre-bake it for about five minutes. Remove from the oven.

Spread the tomatoes over the crust. Sprinkle tomatoes with the mint, cilantro, and feta. Top with mozzarella. Bake for about 15 minutes, until cheese starts to brown.

Serves 2-4.


Welcome to the Happy Valley Locavore!

At our house, locally grown and produced foods have been making up more and more of what we eat, and I have been having fun dreaming up recipes to use what's local and in season. My plan with this blog is to share those recipes and ideas.

Of course, it's August now, which makes it easy--the garden is overflowing with heirloom tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, greens, and herbs, and the farmers market has all that and more. But I am also looking forward to the challenge of trying to eat locally during the winter, too. We'll be storing winter squash and freezing whatever we can out of the garden and from the farmers market. We'll stretch the season on the greens in our garden by using cold frames. Our local coop (Green Fields Market) and independent grocery store (Fosters) are good about stocking local food, so we'll also buy storage crops during the winter--apples, potatoes, onions, etc. I'm not planning on going totally purist on this, but on doing my best to focus on food from this area, especially produce, meat, eggs, and dairy.

Feel free to share these recipes with whomever you like, but please do credit me for them--they will all be originals.