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.

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. With a spoon, spread some of the olive oil mixture over each one. You want decent coverage but not lots of extra oozing over the sides. Make sure you leave some oil for the other sides.

Put the veggie slices on the grill with the olive oil side down. Spread the oil mixture over the top sides. Flip the slices when they start to get soft and are nicely browned on the bottom (time will depend on your grill). Serve hot or room temperature.

Local Meat

My friend Tess wants to know about local meat sources--and the good news is, there are several good ones around here! I was a vegetarian for more than ten years until I got pregnant with my son and decided I needed more protein. With all the great sources of local, sustainably raised meat in Western Mass, the decision was much easier to start eating it again. Here are our favorites--definitely not an all-inclusive list, and I am sure there are others we don't know about.

Wheelview Farm in Shelburne sells grass-fed beef through Green Fields Market and also their farm store. It's worth a drive up to their farm, which has some stunning views and where you can see the cows for yourself. They have the hairy Scottish highlanders and also Banded Galloways. You can help yourself to what you want out of the freezer and leave your money in the box with a note saying what you bought. They also have an Open Farm Day (or weekend) every June.

Crabapple Farm in Chesterfield sells grass-fed beef and lamb at the Greenfield Farmers Market (along with eggs if you get there early enough). I don't know if they also sell directly from the farm or not.

Bostrom's Farm in Greenfield sells grass-fed beef and pork products. They have recently been at the Greenfield Farmers Market, but they also sell directly from the farm.

Not Your Ordinary Farm
in Guilford, VT sells pork products through the Greenfield Farmers Co-op. We love their sausage in particular--they make many different kinds.

Green Fields Market has eggs from a variety of local producers, as well as some local meats (and many other local products).

Diemand Farms in Wendell does eggs and turkey. I'm not sure what else. Their products are pretty widely available in grocery stores. We have pre-ordered Thanksgiving turkey from them at Fosters. They are a bigger operation than the others farms listed. We have been meaning to go over there and check out the farm.

Songline Emu Farm in Gill sells emu meat through Green Fields Market. Maybe also at the farm, I don't know. Ground emu has a texture and flavor similar to beef but with a nutritional profile more like other poultry.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Pizza with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Basil

Hmm, maybe I should have called this blog "Things to do with eggplant, tomatoes, and basil"... But of course, come winter, it will probably be more like "things to do with squash". That's the beauty--and the challenge--of eating what's in season locally. So here's another delicious way to prepare fresh tomatoes, eggplant, and basil. All from my garden, but, of course, abundant in farmers markets and local-minded grocery stores as well.

1 14-inch pizza crust
Olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium eggplant, quartered and cut in 1/4-inch slices
1 large tomato (or equivalent), in 1/4-inch slices
1/2-1 cup coarsely chopped basil leaves (loosely packed)
4 ounces 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 it lightly with olive oil, then pre-bake it for about five minutes. Remove from the oven.

While the crust is pre-baking, heat some olive oil in a skillet and saute the garlic and eggplant until the eggplant is soft.

Spread the tomatoes over the crust. Spread the eggplant and garlic over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with basil. Top with mozzarella. Bake for about 15 minutes, until cheese starts to brown.

Serves 2-4.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fresh Corn Chowder

I am convinced that Western Mass farmers produce some of the best sweet corn in the country. While it's hard to argue with just eating it straight from the cob, this is another tasty way to take advantage of it, along with the new potatoes coming out of the ground now. Onions, garlic, and fresh herbs are all abundant in the farmers market at the moment as well. We use Mapeline Farms milk (you could also add a little of their cream to make this richer). You could make this in the winter with frozen corn, storage potatoes, and dried herbs, but it's really not the same.

3 Tbsp butter or olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 pounds new potatoes, cubed (about 6 cups)
1 Tbsp minced fresh sage (or 1 tsp dried)
1 Tbsp minced fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
1/4 cup masa harina or white flour
2-3 cups water
1 veggie bouillon cube
1 tsp salt
4 ears of corn, shucked
1-2 cups milk
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or 2-3 Tbsp dried
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter or oil in a large soup pot. Add the garlic and onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the potatoes and sauté, stirring often, for an additional 4-5 minutes.

Add the masa harina or white flour to the pot. If you are using dried herbs, add them now, too. Sauté, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes. Add a little water to form a thick roux. Slowly add the rest of the water, stirring as you go. Add the bouillon cube and salt. Cover the pot and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.

While the potatoes cook, remove the corn from the cobs. The easiest way to do this is to break each ear in half, stand each half on end, and slice the kernels off vertically. Scrape as much as possible of the corn liquids and solids off the cob as well.

Add the corn to the pot and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the milk, fresh herbs, and black pepper and stir well. Serve hot.

Serves 4-5.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Freezing and Drying

Tomorrow we're taking delivery of a chest freezer, into which I am planning to put as much as I can from the garden and the farmers market between now and October. I have already got the little freezer that's part of the fridge completely stuffed, mostly with tomatoes so far, but also some of those tasty Romano beans and some of that corn from Schmidt's. The corn and beans have to be blanched first (easy enough), but the tomatoes can go in raw. Just core and remove any bad spots. When you take them out to cook with, run them quickly under warm water and the skins should come right off. I have been loading up quart sized freezer bags with brightly colored tomatoes (whole for the smaller ones, chunks for the really big ones) and the sight of them in there is making me very happy. Once the freezer is in place, we're going to go over to Clarkdale and get a nice big load of peaches to freeze as well. They will be most welcome in midwinter.

I've also started drying tomatoes. I have a dehydrator that will take quite a large batch at once, so I'm experimenting with drying times and results for different varieties. Results are good so far. It should be easy to dry enough of our own to keep me supplied for my typical dried tomato usage until the fresh ones are ready again next summer.

Thai Chicken and Vegetables with Cilantro Peanut Sauce

I am still figuring out how to best grow cilantro in the garden for an ongoing but not overwhelming supply. At the end of last week, suddenly it was all bolting and needing to be picked and used. So I made this curry, which is a lovely way to use quite a lot of cilantro at once. This recipe is very loosely adapted from one in Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons. The red peppers and onions came from Crabapple Farm. If you don't eat chicken, this is also perfectly good with tofu.


3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts
1 1/2 cups cilantro, coarsely chopped
3-4 Tbsp canola or peanut oil, plus more for sautéing
1 Tbsp lime juice
1-2 tsp chili paste (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, in bite-sized cubes
1 large red pepper, diced (frozen is fine)
1 medium onion, sliced lengthwise

Combine the garlic, peanuts, cilantro, oil, lime juice, chili paste, and salt in a food processor and process until well combined. The sauce will be quite thick, almost more like a paste. Set aside.

Heat some oil in a wok or large skillet. Add the chicken and cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes. Add the pepper and onion and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is cooked through. Add the sauce and stir to combine well. The cooking juices from the chicken and vegetables will serve to thin the sauce.

Serve over rice, preferably jasmine. Good with coconut rice (substitute 1 14-oz can of coconut milk for a 1 1/4 cups water when cooking the rice).

Serves about 4.

Variations: Substitute 1 lb thinly sliced steak for the chicken. Substitute cashews for the peanuts.

Pasta with Chicken, Chard, and Gorgonzola

Swiss chard is one of the worker bees of the garden. With little maintenance, it just keeps producing from spring all through the summer and well into fall. In the greenhouses of local farmers, it will probably keep going into winter. Here's a recipe that uses a nice big bunch of it. We use Murray's chicken, but I would love to find a source that is more local. If anyone knows of a good one, let me know.

1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chopped Swiss chard (leaves and stems)
¾ cup crumbled Gorgonzola
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb cut pasta

Heat water for the pasta, and make the rest of the dish while it cooks.

Sauté the chicken until cooked through. Set aside.

Sauté the garlic for 1-2 minutes, then add the chard (in batches if necessary) and cook until just wilted.

Drain the cooked pasta and toss with the chicken and chard. Add the Gorgonzola and toss until it melts and coats everything. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4-6.

Sidehill Farm Yogurt

A little plug for Sidehill Farm in Ashfield, which makes the best yogurt I've ever tasted. If you haven't tried it, check it out. You can get it at Green Fields Market (except for the two months out of the year when they don't milk the cows). I love it, my husband loves it, my son loves it. Our favorite is definitely the Whole Milk Maple. It's a little expensive (about $4.50 for a large tub) but completely worth it.

Ratatouille

Ratatouille...otherwise known as "big tasty pot of late summer vegetables." I generally take the ratatouille concept fairly loosely, often adding some fairly unconventional ingredients. The only things it absolutely has to have are eggplant, tomatoes, and garlic. Last night I kept it more or less traditional, adding only summer squash, a bell pepper, onion, and basil to that foundation. But I have been known to throw in beans, sausage (browned first), mushrooms, greens--whatever is available and seems like it would be tasty. You can also take this in different directions with the seasonings, for example by skipping the basil and using sage (a smaller amount), or oregano and a pinch of cinnamon. Serve with crusty bread if at all possible. Optionally, you could also top with a little goat cheese.

Just about everything I threw into this last night came from our garden (tomatoes, eggplant, squash, basil), but the onions were from Crabapple Farm.

Olive oil to saute
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium or large onion, diced
6-8 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes (seeded and cored, no need to peel)
3 medium eggplants, cubed (no need to peel)
1 medium or large summer squash or zucchini, diced
1-2 bell peppers, diced (green or ripe)
2 cubes coarsely chopped fresh basil (loosely packed)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the garlic and onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the eggplant and tomatoes and cook on medium-high heat, stirring often, until the mixture starts to get juicy. Lower the heat and simmer until veggies are nearly tender. Add the squash and pepper and cook until tender. Stir in the basil, salt, and pepper. Serve.

Serves about 6.