Monday, August 31, 2009

Pizza with Fresh Tomatoes, Chicken, and Edam

This was a hit with Nate and one of his friends on Friday night. And the grownups liked it, too. I used Dutch Gold cheese from Chase Hill Farm, which is an Edam. Gouda would work fairly well here, too, though it is not as strongly flavored. The tomatoes were Romas from my garden.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
4-5 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3/4 cup cooked shredded chicken
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup small cubes of Edam
2-3 oz. shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Paint the crust with olive oil, then prebake for about 7 minutes.

Spread the chopped tomatoes and chicken oven the crust, then sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Add the Edam and mozzarella, then bake for about 10 minutes, until the cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

40 Pounds of Tomatoes

Saturday Donovan and I processed 40 pounds of tomatoes for the freezer. These were the tomatoes he and Nate picked up at Atlas Farm--40 lbs of organic tomatoes for $24. We got seconds, but as far as I could tell, most of what made them seconds was cosmetic blemishes on the skin. A fantastic deal.

Last year I froze a load of tomatoes by the easiest method possible--sticking them straight into the freezer. This method works great and is a fantastic time saver on this end. The down side is that it requires more time on the other end, when you're ready to cook with them. So this year I decided to experiment with some greater processing before freezing--definitely more time required on this end, but hopefully lots of time saved when cooking. We cored, blanched, peeled, and seeded, then packed into freezer bags. To do 40 pounds took a whole afternoon, though it would have been faster with two people working at once (we had to take shifts). This amount of tomatoes resulted in packages for 18 meals--a good quantity, but still less than we would need at our typical rate of usage. So we may yet do some more. Time is always the limiting factor.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Apricots and Tomatoes

No, not together, though who knows, maybe they would be good.

Apex Orchards in Shelburne is advertising apricots available at its farm stand. Locally grown apricots are hard to come by around here, because apricot trees flower early and are vulnerable to spring frosts. Apex seems to have a sheltered spot where it can produce them, so get on over there for a treat!

Also, Atlas Farm in Deerfield has been advertising bulk organic tomatoes, both standard field varieties and mixed heirlooms, at very reasonable prices. They have seconds for even less, if you are planning to can or make sauce. They are available in 10- or 20-pound quantities (or more with special arrangements). If your own garden has been producing less than expected this year, this is a great way to stock up on local tomatoes. Donovan and Nate are headed over there today to get some for us to freeze.

Lamb and Eggplant Stew

Last weekend I cooked up a bunch of eggplant from the garden with some tomatoes, garlic, and onion, figuring I'd add other things to it later--it just needed to be used. Last night I turned it into this delicious stew. Directions below are from scratch, though. I used ground lamb because it is easier for my little guy to eat, but stew lamb would work well, too--perhaps even better.

Olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb ground lamb or stew lamb
3 medium eggplants, peeled and cubed
Several tomatoes, seeded and chopped (around 3 cups)
1 - 1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 Tbsp minced fresh sage
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Crumbled feta for topping (optional)

Heat a little olive oil in a large pot. Add the garlic and onion and saute 2-3 minutes. Add the lamb and brown thoroughly. Pour off excess fat, then add the eggplant and tomatoes. Simmer until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in the oregano, sage, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, then simmer an addition few minutes (or longer).

Serve hot, topped with feta at the table if desired.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blueberry Salsa

I had a hankering to do something savory with blueberries--something that could go with chicken, perhaps--and this is what I came up with. I've had fruit salsas before, but never with blueberries. They work well, though! Try this with grilled chicken or pork, or even as a dip for tortilla chips. You can use fresh or frozen berries.

1 1/2 cups blueberries (whole if low-bush, halved or quartered if high-bush)
1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 hot pepper, such as jalapeno, minced (or more to taste)
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mash the blueberries a bit with the back of a spoon. Let sit for an hour or more for the flavors to mingle.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups, enough to serve with meat for 4-6 people.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Feel Like a Squirrel

At some point over this weekend, Nate and I were looking out the window, watching a squirrel run along the fence with a good two or three nuts precariously clasped in its mouth. Nate wanted to know where the squirrel was going, so I told him it was probably going to stash those nuts away for the winter. Doing the human version of that was pretty much how I spent much of the rest of the weekend.

I husked two dozen ears of corn, stripped off the kernels, blanched it all, and packed it into the freezer. I harvested a bunch of kale from the garden, where it was once again overshadowing the smaller greens around it, steamed it and packed that into the freezer. I made tons of pesto, both the standard Italian basil variety and my own parsley-mint version, and stashed all that away in the freezer for quick meals to come.

While I was at it, I cooked a big batch of black beans in the crock pot (plugged outside on the deck to avoid heating up the kitchen unnecessarily) to replenish the stock I like to keep in the freezer and also to provide the basis for a quick meal later this week (to provide more time for working in the garden and putting up additional food). Oh, and I harvested a load of eggplant from the garden along with some tomatoes and cooked it up into sort of a stew with some garlic and onion, to be embellished later with additional ingredients for quick meals. Again, some went into the fridge for later this week and some went into the freezer. Whew.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Corn Chowder with Bacon

Pleasing contrasts form the basis of this simple soup--sweet and crunchy fresh corn contrasting with salty bacon and soft new potatoes. The seasonings are few, letting the flavors and textures of the main ingredients take the starring role. Donovan and Nate both came back for thirds.

2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium sweet onion (such as Walla Walla), finely chopped
2 lbs new potatoes, cubed
1/4 cup white flour
4 cups corn kernels (from around 5 ears; scrape the cobs to get all the juice)
4-5 strips bacon, cooked and finely chopped
2 cups whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup snipped chives (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. At the onion and saute for 2-3 minutes, then add the potatoes. Saute for another few minutes, then add the flour and stir to form a roux. Continue to cook over reduced heat for a couple minutes, stirring frequently, then add enough water to just cover the potatoes. Stir to blend the roux into the liquid, then partially cover and cook over medium-high heat until potatoes are tender (15 minutes or so).

When the potatoes are tender, add the corn, bacon, milk, salt, and pepper and remove from heat. Garnish with chives if desired.

Serves 4-6.

Variation: Serve topped with a sprinkling of chopped fresh chives or cilantro.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Eggplant for Winter

Eggplant is one of the few vegetables out there that is hard to preserve for winter by just about any means. It doesn't store long, and it's not very good canned or frozen by itself. About the only thing you can do (other than gorge on it while it's in season!) is to cook it up in stews or other dishes that can be frozen, like ratatouille. It's not bad frozen that way, well-cooked, well-seasoned, and well mixed with other vegetables. We have a minor eggplant explosion in the garden right now (they have been loving this hot weather!), so I'll be doing some of this in the next few days. In addition to ratatouille, this Mediterranean Eggplant and Tomato Stew is a good option. You could also make a simple eggplant and tomato pasta sauce to freeze.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Grilled Dijon String Beans

It was definitely too hot to cook indoors last night, so I started thinking about grilling. We had a nice stash of green beans in the fridge that needed to be used. I had never grilled beans before, but the result was delicious. You need a grilling pan or basket for this, which I suggest acquiring if you don't have--they make for an easy way to grill all sorts of vegetables or anything else likely to fall apart or that you want to grill in small pieces. I served this with an herbed steak from Bostrom Farm and a salad of mixed greens from the garden with sliced plums from Clarkdale and feta from Chase Hill Farm.

1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 1/2 Tbps olive oil
A few drops of sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 quart string beans (any color!), stemmed

Combine the mustard, vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, and salt and pepper. Toss with the beans in a bowl 10-30 minutes before you plan to grill them.

Grill the beans in a grilling pan or basket over medium-high heat, stirring periodically, until tender (about 8-10 minutes).

Serves about 4.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cold Southwestern Quinoa Salad

It's in the 90s for the fourth or fifth day in a row. I had been thinking about making corn chowder tonight, but no way do I want to eat something hot--never mind stand over a soup pot to make it. This salad is one of my favorite hot weather meals. It's hearty enough to be a main dish, and very flexible in terms of ingredients and quantities. I like it with quinoa, but I've made it with bulgur and even with pasta. You can use chives or scallions in place of the onion and vary the amount of each vegetable depending on what you have.

2 1/2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
3 cups cooked black beans
1 large red pepper, diced
2 cups corn kernels (raw if very fresh and sweet; otherwise lightly cooked)
1 small sweet onion, minced
1 hot pepper, minced (or to taste)
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 oz. sharp cheddar, in small cubes
1-2 cups salsa (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the water and quinoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender.

Combine quinoa and all other ingredients in a large bowl. Chill until ready to serve.

Serves about 6.

Freezing Corn

It's fresh corn season! Load up on it and enjoy it now, because we have some of the best sweet corn around here that you could hope to find. But while you're at it, also pack some away in the freezer for the winter. Freezing corn is a little more work than some other vegetables, as it has to be husked, removed from the cob, and then blanched before freezing, but the taste is so fantastic that it's worth doing at least some. Because of the amount of work involved, I personally find it easier to do several smaller batches - a dozen ears here, a dozen ears there - rather than a huge bunch all at once.

The method: Husk the ears and remove as much silk as you can. Then, using a large bowl or basin, hold each ear upright and slice the kernels off with a sharp knife. Slice them off as close to the cob as you can without slicing into it. You can boil or steam blanch the corn; I prefer to steam. I have a big pot with an insert meant for pasta (you pull it out at the water stays in the pot) that is also great for steaming large quantities of vegetables. A few minutes does the job. Cool the corn, then pack into freezer bags in quantities you are likely to want at one time. (Ideally, after blanching you dunk vegetables into ice water to cool them very quickly and stop any residual cooking that might happen. I find this impractical with corn cut from the cob because there are so many little bits to float away. But if you can find a good way to do it without losing the little bits, it's a good idea.)

Greek Tomato and Zucchini Pizza

This was one of those inspirations that I thought would be good but turned out even better than expected. You should definitely pre-bake the crust to prevent utter sogginess from the juicy veggies. If you want to use some additional cheese, you could also put a layer of that on the crust under the veggies for further water resistance. It also helps to use less-juicy tomatoes, such as plum tomatoes, though any kind will do and flavor is the most important consideration. If you have tomatoes that are not so amenable to slicing (cherries, for example), you could just coarsely chop.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 medium zucchini, in 1/4-inch slices (halved or quartered if desired)
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or 2 tsp dried)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 medium tomatoes (or equivalent) in 1/4-inch slices, seeds removed
2-3 oz. crumbled feta
3-4 oz. shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Paint crust with olive oil, then bake for 6-7 minutes. Remove from oven.

While pre-baking the crust, heat a little olive oil in a skillet and add the onion and zucchini. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oregano, salt and pepper.

Top crust with sliced tomatoes. Spread the zucchini mixture over it. Sprinkle with feta, then with mozzarella. Bake for about 12 minutes, until cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Tray Freezing Tip

My husband hit on a clever idea for tray freezing: he used the trays from our dehydrator, which stack together. This made it possible to get several more trays' worth of blueberries into the freezer at one time that we could have done with cookie sheets. If you've got a dehydrator, give this a try!

Tray freezing is helpful when you want the frozen food to pour relatively freely later on, so you can take the quantity you want without thawing or having to use a whole package.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Free Harvest Supper This Sunday

Don't miss the annual Free Harvest Supper this Sunday afternoon at the Greenfield Town Common/Court Square! If you haven't been the last couple of years, be sure to check it out this time. Loads of local farms and restaurants are donating their food and their labor to put on this free community event. Last year about 700 people went, including us. You get to eat fantastic food in the company of friends and neighbors, listen to live music, meet new people, and, if you like, make a donation that will be turned into farmers market coupons for low income folks.

Even Quick Suppers Can Be Local

I had no time to cook last night, and had forgotten to put something in the crock pot in the morning, so on arriving home at 7pm I was looking for something fast to get on the table for myself and Nate. I pulled some basil scape sauce out of the freezer and set it in a bowl of warm water to thaw while I made pasta. When the pasta was ready, I tossed it with the sauce, some cooked kidney beans, and crumbled feta from Chase Hill Farm. Dinner was ready in less than 20 minutes, and delicious too.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Freezing Blueberries

This afternoon, Donovan and Nate are going up to The Benson Place to pick up the 20 pounds of blueberries that we ordered. Which means I'll be working on getting them into the freezer over the next day or two (realistically, probably two, as I won't have much time before Saturday). Fortunately, freezing blueberries is ridiculously easy. Just wash and freeze. If you like, dry them in between those steps to prevent them from sticking together (though even without drying they're not too bad). Package in freezer bags in quantities you'll want to use at one time. Then, all fall and winter and spring: blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, blueberry cobbler, smoothies, mixed fruit compotes...

If you're wondering about drying blueberries, I looked into and decided it wasn't worth it. They don't dry well unless you sugar soak them first, which means a) that they are soaked in sugar and b) that it takes four days to prepare them for drying.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer Smoothies

I love fruit smoothies for a cool, refreshing snack on a hot summer day--or as a healthful dessert. This time of year, they are also an excellent way to use fruit that is a bit past its prime or otherwise not ideal for eating out of hand. The addition of a little frozen fruit adds more flavor as well as coldness. But you can toss in some ice cubes if you're working with just fresh fruit. I also like to add some yogurt to round out the flavor and texture and add a little more substance. These go over great with my almost-two-year-old, too.

Here's one we've been making recently:

2 ripe peaches, quartered and pitted
1/2 - 1 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup yogurt (we use Sidehill Farm whole milk maple)

Blend in the blender until smooth. Serves 2-3.

Of course, the combinations are limited only by your imagination and the fruit you have on hand.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Peach-Blackberry Crisp

We have been enjoying lovely ripe peaches from Clarkdale, along with blackberries purchased at the farmers market on Saturday. We ate about half the pint on the way home, but the rest made it into a crisp.

4-5 cups sliced peaches
1-2 cups blackberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp corn starch
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 - 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
dash of nutmeg
5 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, plus more for the pan

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

In a large bowl, gently toss the fruit with the sugar and corn starch. Transfer to the buttered pan.

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

Bake for about 30 minutes, until topping is crisp and fruit is bubbly. Serve warm or hot. Great with ice cream, especially Snow's or Bart's Ginger.

Serves about six.

Variation: substitute blueberries for the blackberries.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Drying Herbs

The herbs in my garden are getting big and bushy, and lovely big bunches are showing up at the farmers market. It's a good time to think about drying some for use over the winter. You can dry herbs in a dehydrator or your oven, but the easiest method is just to hang them up to air dry. This method works well for basil, oregano, parsley, dill, rosemary, and sage, among others. Just bind several stalks together with string or a rubber band, then hang upside down in an airy location out of direct sunlight. You can do this inside a paper bag if you like, to catch any bits that fall off. If you are drying for seeds (with dill, for example, or coriander), you definitely want to use the paper bag--in that case, once everything is dry, you give it a good shake and the seeds will collect in the bottom of the bag.

The length of time that herbs need to hang to dry will vary with weather conditions and the herb you are using. Usually you'll need a week or two. Once the herb is dry and crumbly, you can transfer the leaves to an airtight container and store out of direct sunlight.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Clarkdale is Open

Clarkdale Fruit Farms, in Deerfield, is now open for the season! They have peaches, early apples, and a few plums available for sale.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Vietnamese Noodles with Chicken, Red Pepper, and Peach

One of the things I miss about living in California is the ready access to Vietnamese food, especially vermicelli bowls on hot nights. This is one attempt at an approximation, using in-season local produce. It wasn't perfect, but it was quite good. And it made a fine use for the first red bell pepper from our garden! The sauce is a variation on nuoc cham, so if you have some of that in the fridge already, you can just add some more water and sugar.

1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 peach or nectarine, pitted and diced (a little underripe is okay)
1-1 1/2 cups chopped fresh Thai basil, mint, cilantro, or combination
1/2 tsp lime juice
Salt to taste
1/2 lb rice vermicelli, cooked and cooled according to package directions
4 cups cooked shredded chicken (warm or room temperature)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts, lightly toasted

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chili paste
2 Tbsp lime juice (ideally fresh)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt

Combine the carrot, pepper, peach or nectarine, herbs, lime juice, and salt in a bowl.

Place generous servings of vermicelli in a bowl for each person. Top with some of the veggie mixture, then the chicken.

At the table, top generously with the sauce and a spoonful of peanuts.

Serves about 4.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Locavore Talk at Northfield Mountain

I'll be giving a talk on local eating at Northfield Mountain next Tuesday, Aug. 11. Details here:

Pizza with Black Beans, Kale, and Bacon

The kale in the garden has grown so big that it was completely overshadowing crops that had been next to it earlier in the season. So I picked a bunch last night and used it in this tasty pizza, along with hot peppers, cilantro, and onions also from the garden. The bacon was from Bostrom Farm as usual. Note that this recipe makes two pizzas; you could easily halve it. Also, feel free to substitute other greens for the kale, depending on what you have.

3 cups cooked black beans
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 hot peppers (such as jalapenos), seeded and coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced lengthwise
6-8 cups coarsely chopped or torn kale (stems removed)
4-5 strips cooked bacon, chopped
2 14-inch pizza crusts
3-4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar
3-4 ounces shredded mozzarella

Combine the black beans, cilantro, and hot peppers in the food process and process until relatively smooth. Add a little water to achieve a consistency you like. It should be somewhere between sauce and hummus. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

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

Heat a little more olive oil in a skillet and saute the onions for about 2 minutes. Add the kale, in bunches if necessary, and saute until tender.

Spread the black bean mixture evenly over the pizza crusts. Spread the kale and onions over the beans, then sprinkle with bacon. Top with cheddar and mozzarella.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until crusts are done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 4-6.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Linguine with Eggplant, Sausage, and Tomato Sauce

Coming home yesterday afternoon from a week away, and without going shopping, this is what I put together for dinner from the garden, the pantry, and the freezer. The eggplants came from our garden, Asian varieties than tend to fruit earlier than many Italian ones. The basil and garlic also came from the garden, and the sausage from Bostrom Farm. The tomatoes, I must confess, came from a can, as our tomatoes are not yet ripe.

olive oil
2 medium eggplants, quartered or halved and cut in 1/4-inch slices (about 6 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb linguine (or substitute other pasta if you like)
Grated Parmesan for topping

Heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Add the eggplant and saute over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until almost tender. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or so, then stir in the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta. When done, drain and toss with a little olive oil.

While the pasta boils, cook the sausage in another skillet, breaking it up in crumbles as you go. When done, drain off the fat and add the sausage to the tomato sauce. Stir in the basil, then add salt and pepper to taste and turn off the heat.

Top with grated Parmesan at the table if desired.

Serves 4-6.

Variation: Use sliced zucchini or summer squash instead of or in addition to some of the eggplant. Leave out the sausage if you like.