Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pizza with Fennel and Scapes

I spotted the first fennel of the season at The Cook's Garden at the farmers market on Saturday. I have some in my garden as well, but it has a long way to go (next year we will plant it earlier!). I made two pizzas, which used most of the bulb, but I've still got a bit leftover to use in salads for the rest of the week (raw fennel is great in salads; many times you can even use the stalks--just try them first to make sure they're not too tough).

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups chopped fennel bulb
1/2 - 2/3 cup chopped scapes
1-2 oz chopped pecorino or 2-3 oz crumbled feta
2-3 oz shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Paint the pizza crust lightly with olive oil.

Spread the tomato sauce over the crust, then sprinkle with the fennel, scapes, and pecorino or feta. Sprinkle the mozzarella over everything. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until crust is done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.


A line of severe thunderstorms just passed through here, bringing heavy rain and hail. Looking out the window, I can see holes in the squash leaves. Other plants have probably suffered similar damage, but hopefully nothing too serious. It has been a tough summer for weather so far: first rain, rain, and more rain (and more coming, it seems), now hail. It's probably not good news for local farmers. Local fruit growers suffered hail damage last summer, and probably did again just now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stir-Fried Lamb and Snow Peas

This is an adaptation of a Mark Bittman recipe that was published in the New York Times. His version is basically just lamb; I added the scapes and peas (from my garden!). Although the form is that of a stir-fry, the flavors are more Persian than Chinese. I used some delicious lamb from Leyden Glen Farm, purchased at Green Fields Market, and scapes and scallions from the farmers market. You could use snap peas in place of the snow peas if you like. Serves this over rice.

1 lb stew lamb, trimmed of as much fat and connective tissue as possible, and cut into small cubes
1 Tbsp whole cumin seed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Canola oil
1 1/2 cups chopped scapes (about 4 oz.)
4-5 scallions (green and white parts), chopped
6 oz. snow peas

Lightly toast the cumin seed in a dry skillet over medium heat, until fragrant.

In a medium bowl, toss the lamb with the cumin seed, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and soy sauce until well coated.

Heat a tablespoon or so of canola oil in a large skillet (not a wok). Add the lamb, in a single layer if possible. Cook over high heat without stirring for 1 minute. Add the scapes and stir, returning the lamb to a single layer. Cook 1 more minute. Add the scallions and snow peas and stir, cooking for about 1 more minute. Add a few tablespoons of water if you like, to make a little sauce.

Serve over rice.

Serves about 4.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ooooby - Social Network for Locavores and Gardeners

I was recently tipped off to a new online social network for locavores and folks who grow their own vegetables. It's called Ooooby (for Out Of Our Own Back Yards) and it looks like an interesting resource. You can check it out, and join if you like, here: http://ooooby.ning.com/.

Stir-Fried Greens and Tofu

I tend to scale back my use of greens in cooking as the summer goes on, because there are so many other delicious vegetables available and I've been using greens for most of the year. But they are still plentiful in the farmers market--and still delicious. This recipe uses a bunch at once. I like this with tofu, but you can use chicken, tempeh, or another protein of your choice. Or just do the greens and serve as a side dish. If you like, substitute several chopped scapes for the garlic.

1 14-ounce package firm tofu
½ cup canola oil
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1-2 Tbsp water
¼ cup soy sauce
1-2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1-2 tsp chili paste
2-3 Tbsp sesame oil
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 lb fresh greens, sliced or torn up
2 tsp lightly toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Press the tofu to remove excess water, then cut it into strips or cubes.

Heat the canola oil in a wok or other deep pan. When it is hot, add the tofu in batches and fry it over high heat, stirring frequently to prevent it from sticking to the pan. When the tofu is crispy and golden brown on all sides, remove it with a slotted spoon and drain it on paper towels. When finished, pour out all but about 1 Tbsp of oil from the wok.

Mix the cornstarch and water together to form a thin paste. In a separate container, mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili paste, and sesame oil together.

Reheat the 1 Tbsp of canola oil that is left in the wok. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for about two minutes. Add the greens, in batches if necessary. Stir constantly until all of the greens are just wilted. Add the soy sauce mixture and continue to stir for just a moment. Add the cornstarch mixture and continue to stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

Serve hot over rice, topped with a sprinkling of sesame seeds if desired.

Serves 3-4.

Balsamic Turnips and Greens with Barley

At the farmers market on Saturday, I noticed several vendors with small Japanese turnips. We used to get these in our CSA box in California, where they were labeled Tokyo turnips. These tender little vegetables are quite different from the purple top turnips you see in fall and winter. They are mild enough to eat raw, a little like the enormous Gilfeather turnips, but with a smoother texture. Try them with their very nutritious greens in this dish.

1 cup pearl barley
3 cups water
3 medium turnips and greens
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
¾ cup raisins
¾ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Place the barley and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the water is absorbed and the barley is tender, about 30 minutes.

While the barley is cooking, peel the turnips and cut into matchsticks. Wash, stem, and coarsely chop the turnip greens.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the turnips (not the greens) and sauté until just tender, about 2-4 minutes.

Add the balsamic vinegar and the raisins and stir for a minute or so. Add the greens (you may have to do this in batches) and cook until they are wilted and most of the vinegar has evaporated. Stir in the salt, pepper, and toasted walnuts.

Combine the turnips mixture with the barley and feta. Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Early Summer Pizza

I splurged on a few baby zucchini at the farmers market this weekend. We'll have them in the garden eventually, but this was a taste of things to come. Combined with scapes and fresh basil, they sing of early summer.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 baby zucchini, sliced in rounds as thinly as possible (about 2 cups)
3-4 scapes, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 oz. fresh mozzarella, in 1/2 cubes

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Paint the pizza crust lightly with olive oil.

Spread the tomato sauce over the crust. Lay the zucchini slices over the sauce, overlapping somewhat. Sprinkle with the scapes and basil, then add a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Bake for 12 minutes. Remove pizza from oven, scatter the fresh mozzarella over it, and return to the oven for another 3-5 minutes.

Serves 3-4.

Drying Strawberries

On Saturday we took advantage of the fact that it wasn't raining (for once!) and went back to Upinngil Farm to pick some more strawberries. This time my plan was to dry them. Back home, I washed and hulled them, then sliced them in half. The biggest ones I sliced in quarters. Then I lined them up on the trays of my dehydrator and dried them for 15 hours or so (I usually do this mostly overnight). It has not been ideal drying weather and if strawberry season was not so short I would have waited in hopes of a drier day, and run the dehydrator outside. That's what I'll do later in the summer with the tomatoes and peaches.

The strawberries came out great, and I'm looking forward to enjoying them in my winter oatmeal. Home-dried fruit can be stored in sealed containers on a shelf, but for longer life it is best to keep it in the freezer until you are ready to open a container. For this reason, it is also best to store it in more smaller containers (I use ball jars) rather than fewer larger containers.
Fresh picked berries
The deyhdrator (Nesco Snackmaster - 400 watts - 7 trays)

Berries partially dried - you have to check them periodically to take out any that are done before the rest.

A sample of the finished product.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Parsley-Mint Pesto with Scapes

Scape season is short, short, short, so enjoy them while you can get them.

Some folks like to let their herbs grow huge and then make giant batches of pesto at the end of the season to go in the freezer. I find it easier to make it as I go along, with a little extra from each batch to get stored away. I freeze pesto in quart-size freezer bags, spread out flat for fast thawing. I store in amounts that I will want at a single shot--1 cup for 1 lb of pasta, or 1/2 cup for a pizza.

3 oz scapes (about 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped)
2 cups parsley
1 - 1 1/2 cups mint leaves
2-3 oz feta
1/2 cup toasted walnuts (optional)
1 tsp lemon juice
olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine scapes, parsley, mint, feta, nuts (if using) and lemon juice in a food process and process until fairly smooth. Add olive oil to reach desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Middle Eastern Pizza with Chickpeas and Herbs

I bought big bunches of parsley and mint at the farmers market this past weekend. I am still planning to make some parsley pesto out of them, along with some scapes, but there was enough for a few other endeavors as well. I also used chives from my garden and fresh mozzarella that I made over the weekend from Upinngil Farm milk. I wasn't totally certain that this was going to work as pizza, but it turned out to be really good.

Later in the summer I would use fresh tomatoes instead of sauce for this recipe. Actually, I did notice one vendor with tomatoes at the farmers market this weekend (cucumbers, too), but they were a standard variety conventionally grown and I figured we could wait for the good ones.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup coarsely mashed/chopped chickpeas
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp minced fresh mint
3-4 oz. mozzarella, shredded (or in chunks if fresh)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Lightly paint the pizza crust with olive oil. Spread on the tomato sauce.

In a small bowl, combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, 1 Tbsp olive oil, and salt and pepper. Spread this mixture over the sauce, then sprinkle the chives, parsley and mint over the chickpeas. If using standard mozzarella, sprinkle it on top. If using fresh, start baking the pizza without it and add it in the last 3-5 minutes (I have found this keeps it from soaking in too much).

Bake the pizza for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is done and cheese is melted.

Serves 3-4.

Monday, June 15, 2009

White Bean, Arugula, and Sausage Stew

It was chilly and wet today, putting me in the mood for something warm and hearty. I had sweet Italian sausage from Bostrom's and arugula from Crabapple Farm, and they went together nicely. Instead of regular garlic, I threw in some scapes as well, which added a nice little crunch. This stew also offered the chance to use up the last bag of frozen tomatoes from last fall, but I think you could leave them out, or substitute canned.

1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 cups chopped scapes (optional)
2 cups tomatoes (if frozen, thawed and drained a bit)
3 cups cooked white beans
5 oz. arugula, chopped
1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the sausage in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Pour off most of the fat, then add the onions and scapes and cook until tender. Add the tomatoes and white beans, then arugula and sage. Cook until the arugula is tender, then add salt and pepper.

Serves 4-5.

More Strawberry Ideas

More things to do with fresh strawberries:

1. Make crepes. Fill with sliced strawberries.
2. Slice and serve with pancakes. Toss with sugar first for more "sauce". Or cook down into chunky syrup.
3. Slice and add to tossed salad. Especially good with a little salty cheese like feta and a balsamic or red wine vinaigrette.
4. Soak in red wine. Add a cinnamon stick if you like. Serve for dessert.
5. Pair with goat cheese for an appetizer or dessert.

And one more idea for frozen berries: They make excellent ice cubes for punch, lemonade, or sangria.

Strawberry Shortcake

The shortcake part of this recipe comes from Alice Waters, in The Art of Simple Food. They are basic cream biscuits with a little sugar added. By all means make strawberry shortcake from scratch, with local cream. The difference is flavor is phenomenal. If you like, you can substitute a tablespoon or so of liqueur for the extract in the whipped cream.

4-5 cups strawberries, more if you want to be generous
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold butter, in small pieces
1 pint heavy cream
1/2 tsp almond or vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp confectioners sugar

Hull and slice the strawberries. Toss with 1/4 cup sugar and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine 1 Tbsp sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and cut it into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or two knives until it is the size of peas or smaller. Pour in 3/4 cup cream and mix with a fork until the dough just hold together. If it's too dry, add more cream a tiny bit at a time. Form the dough into a rough ball with your hands. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and roll out to 3/4-inch thick. Cut into 6-8 pieces.

Bake the shortcakes for 17 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool on a rack.

Combine the remaining cream, vanilla or almond extract, and confectioners sugar. Using and electric mixer, beat until the cream holds soft peaks.

To serve, slice the shortcakes in half. Top one half with strawberries and whipped cream and cover with the other half.

Serves 6-8.

Awash in Strawberries

Saturday we went to Upinngil Farm and picked strawberries, which was lots of fun. We picked roughly 10 quarts, for which we paid $20. Quite a savings, considering that pints were going for $3.50 apiece at the farmers market the same day. The farm is beautiful, too, and Nate enjoyed getting a close look at the cows.

So what did I do with all those strawberries? Well, we saved out some to eat over the next few days, of course, but I also made strawberry shortcake and strawberry rhubarb jam. The rest (about 13 pints) went into the freezer after washing and hulling. I canned the five pints of jam--canning jam is easy because the fruit is has plenty of acid and the jars only need to boil for five minutes--so we can eat it at our leisure or give it away as gifts. You can also freeze jam if you don't want to bother with canning, but then it's not as suitable for giving away.

A friend asked me last night what we would do with all the frozen strawberries. There are lots of options. Quite a few will probably go into smoothies. They will also present some nice brunch possibilities, thawed and warmed or even cooked into sauce for pancakes or crepes. I could always make more jam later, too. Or they might go into homemade sorbet, which I like because it doesn't require an ice cream maker (puree the fruit with some yogurt or simple syrup and serve immediately, or freeze again, then put the frozen product through a food processor again before serving). And, of course, there are plenty of pie/crisp/cobbler options, perhaps in combination with other fruits as they come into season, or else combined with other frozen fruits later in the winter. Another friend suggested strawberry ice cream, which would be a great idea if I had an ice cream maker.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pizza with Basil Scape Sauce and Goat Cheese

As I mentioned in my last post, basil scape sauce is good on pizza. I made a really simple one with just the sauce and some excellent ripened goat cheese from Hillman Farm. You could use regular chevre as well, but I recommend the ripened variety for a more intense flavor.

1 14-inch pizza crust
Olive oil
1/2 cup basil scape sauce
3 oz. goat cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Paint pizza crust lightly with olive oil. Spread basil scape sauce over it, then top with small chunks of goat cheese. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until crust is done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 2-3.

Basil Scape Sauce

This is sort of a stripped down pesto, totally focused on the flavors of garlic and basil. To make a more traditional pesto, add nuts and cheese. Or you could serve this with pasta and add the nuts and cheese in separately, for sort of a deconstructed pesto. It's also good on pizza, or try it with crostini or as a topping for grilled or broiled chicken or lamb.

12 oz garlic scapes
3 oz fresh basil leaves
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil and/or water

Combine scapes, basil and lemon juice in a food processor and process until fairly smooth. Add some olive oil and/or water if necessary. Taste and add salt and pepper. Add additional olive oil and/or water to achieve desired consistency.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Garlic Scapes

If you go to the farmers market tomorrow, be sure to pick up some garlic scapes. These are the would-be flower stem produced by a garlic plant. Growers cut them off to encourage the plant to focus more on developing the bulb that will eventually be mature garlic. They are bright green and have a delightful curlicue shape. Like other parts of a spring garlic plant, their garlic flavor is relatively mild.

You can use scapes to make a pesto as you would with green garlic. Throw in some basil, parsley or mint if you like.

Or chop them up and toss into scrambled eggs, quiche or a frittata. Or throw them in with rice you are cooking. Dice and add to homemade tomato sauce. Put them on pizza with some basil and goat cheese. Include them in a stir fry. There are many possibilities, all delicious.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

CSAs and Mystery Veggies

A few years ago, when we lived in California, we got a CSA share. (Haven't done it here, since we grow so much of our own and love the Saturday ritual of the farmers market.) That weekly box introduced me to all kinds of vegetables I had never heard of, not to mention opening my eyes on several familiar ones to what a really good version could be like. I definitely had to do some culinary exploration and experimentation, both to figure out what to do with the unknown items and to find something interesting to do week after week while the familiar ones were in season. So, folks out there with CSAs, let me know if you're getting stuff in your box that you're not sure what you do with, or that you've run out of ideas for, and I'll see what I can come up with.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Snap Peas and Snow Peas

I haven't noticed peas at the farmers market yet, but I bet they're coming soon. We have been picking early snap peas in our garden for a week or more now. Snap peas and snow peas are great eaten right off the vine (or out of the box from the market), but if you have enough to survive that step, you can also:

1. Use them in green salads, either whole or chopped
2. Put them in a stir-fry, perhaps with some early carrots, spring onions or bunching onions, and chicken or tofu
3. For a side dish, stir fry very briefly with sesame oil and a dash of soy sauce. Add a little grated fresh ginger if you like. Top with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.
4. Steam lightly and serve tossed with a little chopped fresh mint or basil

And, of course, you can always freeze some for later, too. Blanch very, very briefly, then dunk in ice water. Dry and freeze in a freezer bag. Tray freeze for 30 minutes or so first if you want to be able to take out just a few at a time after they're frozen.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Strawberries and Whipped Cream

I'm sure no one needs me to say that this is a classic combination, and for good reason. You can, of course, simply fill a bowl with whole or sliced strawberries and top with a big glob of whipped cream. But if you're looking to dress it up a little, here are two options. In both cases, you can use the strawberries straight, or else toss them with a little sugar ahead of time to pull out some of the juice. You can also whip straight cream or else add a little confectioner's sugar and/or vanilla extract. Or, for something more sophisticated and unusual, add some almond extract.

1. Use large wineglasses and make alternating layers of sliced strawberries and whipped cream. Top each glass with a whole berry with the stem still on.

2. Make a "fool" by mashing some berries into the whipped cream, then folding in some whole berries as well. It will be a lovely pink.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Green Garlic Pesto

Green garlic makes a lovely pesto with a nice garlic flavor that is not at all overpowering. You can use the entire plant once you cut the roots off. This recipe makes enough to have some now and put some in the freezer for later. I used pecorino and pine nuts, but you could also substitute Parmesan and walnuts if you like. You could also make this with scapes, which are coming in now.

8-10 slender stalks green garlic, including leaves (roots removed)
1/2 - 1/3 cub extra virgin olive oil
1/2 - 3/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 lb pecorino, chopped
2 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor; taste and adjust as needed for flavor and texture. This makes a fairly thick paste. You can thin it with a little water when you are ready to use--if serving on pasta, use a little of the pasta water.

Makes about 2 cups. Use 1 cup for 1 lb of pasta. To freeze, place 1/2 cup or 1 cup quantity in a quart-size freezer bag, squeeze all the air out, and smooth out the pesto so it's nice and flat. You can thaw it quickly in a bowl of warm water.

Pizza with Spinach, Pecorino, and Sage

I expect that spinach is going to be winding down in the markets pretty soon. What we had in the garden is long gone, having bolted weeks ago. But if you like this recipe, you can also make it with Swiss chard, which goes right through the summer and into fall. Pecorino is a salty, flavorful sheep's milk cheese from Italy. It's a treat in our house because it's a little expensive, but worth it now and then. I'd love a local substitute, but I'm not aware of anyone making sheep cheese in this area--if anyone knows of any, please let me know!

Olive oil
1 14-inch pizza crust
1/2 lb spinach, stemmed
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
1 oz pecorino, grated or finely diced
2 oz shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Paint the pizza crust lightly with olive oil.

Heat a little more olive oil in a skillet and saute the spinach just long enough to wilt it.

Spread the tomato sauce on the pizza crust. Top with the spinach. Sprinkle with sage and pecorino, then top lightly with mozzarella. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until crust is done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.


Strawberry season is here! I picked up two pints at the farmers market on Saturday, one to eat and one to freeze for later. To freeze strawberries, wash and hull, then put them whole into a freezer bag. If they're not too crowded, they won't clump together too much. Or you can tray freeze them for 30 minutes or so first, then transfer to a bag.

I also saw that Upinngil Farm in Gill is open for u-pick strawberries. We are planning to go this coming weekend. (Note that Upinngil also has a farm stand with fruits, vegetables, etc. They also sell raw milk at the farm, so I'll probably pick some up to make some more cheese.)

Storing Fresh Basil

Fresh basil is available in the farmers market now, as farmers start pruning basil plants to encourage bushier growth. If you buy fresh basil or harvest your own and you are not able to use it the same day, don't put it in the fridge. Basil doesn't like temperatures that cold, and refrigeration is likely to make it turn black in places. Instead, fill a glass or jar with water and put the basil in it--then leave it on the counter. Give the bottom of the stems a fresh trim first. Basil will keep quite nicely this way for at least a few days.

I'll be posting plenty of recipes using fresh basil as the summer goes on. When it's just coming into season like right now, I like to throw it into all kinds of things. Try a few leaves tossed into a green salad, or chopped and added to scrambled eggs (had this on Saturday--yum!).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Late Spring Crops

As we get further into the summer, the number and variety of foods in season locally will explode, but for now we are still waiting and watching eagerly as each new one appears. Or at least I am!

Spring starts out with greens grown in hoophouses, asparagus, rhubarb, some herbs, and maybe some leeks that were either overwintered or grown in a hoophouse. But now that we are getting further along into the season, we are seeing green garlic, radishes, bunching onions and spring onions and a shift to greens grown in the field, while the asparagus, rhubarb, and herbs continue.

Now, at the beginning of June, we're at a tipping point. The really good stuff, the crops that feel like treats, are just about to start coming in. I have been harvesting my earliest snap peas in the garden and I expect to start seeing peas--snap, snow, and shelling--in the farmers market quite soon. The garlic in my garden has also just started forming scapes (stalks with would-be flowers), which are delicious. Growers cut them off to encourage the plants to form larger bulbs, so we'll be seeing scapes in the farmers market soon, too. And, of course, STRAWBERRIES! If we're lucky here in Greenfield, some of the vendors from further south in the valley might have early strawberries this weekend. Otherwise, we'll need to wait just a little longer. I am personally looking forward to picking some, maybe at Uppingil Farm in Gill, so I can stash them away in the freezer as well as enjoying them now.

The folks at the farmers market are always a bit ahead of my garden, it seems--some because they are further south and some because they are growing in hoophouses. So it probably won't be too many more weeks before we start to see other things like baby carrots, more summer leeks, more herbs, and maybe early fennel. As I wait for each new item to make its appearance, I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas--right down to imagining all the wonderful things I'm going to do with the anticipated treats.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pizza with Ricotta, Green Garlic, and Basil

I bought a big bunch of green garlic from The Cook's Garden at the farmers market this past weekend--yum! Green garlic, also called spring garlic, is a treat available at this time of year. Unlike mature garlic, you can eat the whole plant, and the flavor is milder than the garlic you normally think of. I combined it on this pizza with the rest of the ricotta I made and the remains of my basil thinnings. If you don't have access to basil yet, I think it would also be tasty with other fresh herbs that are in full swing now, like oregano or sage. You could also add some thinly sliced asparagus to this.

The ricotta I made ended up drier and more crumbly than the ricotta you generally get at the store. If you use softer ricotta, just dot the pizza with globs of it.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup ricotta
1 cup sliced green garlic (in rounds, like you might do with scallions)
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 oz. shredded mozzarella (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Paint the pizza crust lightly with olive oil. Spread the tomato sauce over it. Top with ricotta, green garlic, and basil. Sprinkle the mozzarella over everything (you're going for sparse coverage).

Bake for about 15 minutes, until crust is done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Spring Lasagna

With homemade ricotta and mozzarella in the fridge, lasagna was calling my name. This is pretty basic (apart from the homemade cheese!), but I threw in some nice late spring ingredients. I have been enjoying the thinnings from my basil seedlings and am eagerly waiting for the remaining plants to get bigger. You could also use some fresh oregano in addition or instead. Quantities are approximate.

3-4 cups pasta sauce (tomato-basil would be best)
12 no-boil lasagna noodles (1 12-oz box)
Olive oil
1-2 stalks spring garlic, in thin rounds
1 medium onion, chopped
5-6 cups spinach
1/2 - 1 cup basil leaves
2-3 cups ricotta
2-3 cups shredded or sliced mozzarella (fresh or the regular stuff)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a 9x13x2-inch baking pan. Place three noodles over the sauce.

Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the rest of the pasta sauce and simmer until heated through. Add the spinach and basil and cook until wilted.

Spread 1/3 of the ricotta over the noodles in the pan, then add a thin layer of sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the mozzarella. Add another three noodles, another 1/3 of the ricotta, another layer of sauce, and another 1/4 of the mozzarella. Repeat one more time. For the final layer, add the noodles, a layer of sauce, and mozzarella on top (no ricotta).

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes.

Serves 4-6.

Herbed Grilled Steak

Saturday night we treated ourselves to steak on the grill, a nice sirloin from Bostrom's Farm. This treatment for steak comes from Alice Waters, described in her book The Art of Simple Food (a great cookbook, by the way, with lots of discussion of simple technique). You can use a variety of herbs depending on what you have available; a mixture is nice. I used oregano, parsley, and basil from my garden. Rosemary and marjoram work well, too.

Salt (about 1 1/2 tsp per 2 servings of steak)
Pepper to taste (be generous)
Finely chopped fresh herbs (about 3 Tbsp for every 2-3 servings of steak)
Olive oil

About an hour before you plan to grill, take the steak out of the refrigerator.

Combine the salt, pepper, and herbs with a teaspoon or so of olive oil (just enough to form a bit of a paste that you can spread. Spread it all over the steak and let sit for an hour.

Cook the steak over a hot fire to your desired degree of doneness (about 8-10 minutes total cooking time for medium rare). Keep in mind that grassfed beef is best when not too well done because it has less fat in it.

Making Ricotta

Having made mozzarella last weekend, I thought I should try my hand and ricotta this weekend. It's actually quite a bit easier than the mozzarella--just a matter of adding citric acid to milk, heating it pretty hot, then spooning out the separated curds. I didn't use raw milk this time, just regular whole milk from Mapleline Farms, but it came out delicious. Now I am feeling inspired to order some more cultures and try out some other relatively easy cheeses, and also yogurt.