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.

Variations:

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

Topping
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.