Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Peach Salsa

One last salsa recipe for August! This is adapted from a recipe given to me by my friend Amy Mayer.

4 1/2 lbs peaches
2 1/2 lbs tomatoes (red is good)
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
2 red onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice
1-2 tsp cumin
Salt to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Prepare the peaches and tomatoes for peeling by dunking them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then into ice water. Then peel - the skins should essentially slip off.

Pit and chop the peaches. Chop the tomatoes, seeding as you go. Drain the tomatoes of extra liquid, then combine with the peaches in a large pot.

Cook the peaches and tomatoes for about 5 minutes, then puree a little bit, either with an immersion blender or by removing a small quantity to puree in a blender then return to the pot. Add the jalapenos, bell pepper if using, and the onions. Add the vinegar, lime juice, and cumin bring to a boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add salt to taste and stir in the cilantro. Taste and adjust seasonings.

The salsa is now ready to refrigerate, freeze, or can.

Yield: 6 pints

Monday, August 30, 2010

Salsa Verde

Another summer salsa recipe for the repetoire. By adding a good amount of tomatoes and some lime juice, this becomes safe for canning.

3 1/2 lbs green-when-ripe tomatoes
1/2 lb tomatillos, husks removed
3 New Mexico-style green chilies
1 large onion
1/2 cup lime juice
3/4 cup chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

Core the tomatoes and coarsely chop. Coarsely chop the tomatillos, peppers, and onions. Combine the veggies in a Dutch oven and cook until soft. Puree to desired level of smoothness, then return to the pot. Add the lime juice, cilantro, and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Yield: 5 half-pints

Friday, August 27, 2010

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Roasting gives tomatoes, and the subsequent sauce, a richer flavor than you get from just cooking them in a pot. You don't have to limit your use of the roasted tomatoes to making sauce, of course - if you skip the simmering down step you can turn them into a delicious soup. Or just chop the tomatoes and use them straight - with pasta, on pizza, etc.

7 1/2 lbs paste tomatoes (such as Roma, San Marzano, Amish Paste, etc)
olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Other seasonings as desired: fresh or dried basil, oregano, thyme, sage, parsley...your choice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Core the tomatoes and spread them out in a single layer in a large baking dish (or two); use a dish with reasonably high sides, as the tomatoes will give off a good bit of liquid. Put them in the oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring once or twice. When they're done they will be very soft and the skins will probably have split. Remove from the oven and scoop the tomatoes into a colander in the sink to drain.

You can stop here and use the tomatoes as you like. Or proceed:

When the tomatoes are cool enough to work with and have drained off some of their excess liquid, put them through a mill (I used my Squeezo Strainer, which is awesome for tomato sauce and apple sauce; if you want to get one, check eBay - I got a lightly used one for half the retail price that way). After this step I had about 8 cups. You can stop here and make tomato soup. Or proceed:

Pour the milled tomatoes into a Dutch oven or other large, heavy-bottomed pot. Simmer over low heat until the sauce reduces to a consistency you like. In the meantime, heat a little olive oil in a small skillet and saute the garlic and shallot, then add them to the sauce. When the sauce is done reducing, add salt and pepper to taste. I ended up with about 4 1/2 cups; precise yield will depend on how much you reduce the sauce.

Feel free to add additional seasonings to the sauce. It is remarkably good with just the garlic and shallot, but any of the herbs listed above (or a combination) would be nice additions.

Yield: 4-5 cups of sauce.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Roasted Late Summer Veggies with Rosemary

I don't do much roasting during the summer - it's usually just too hot to turn the oven on. So I took advantage of the cooler weather we have been having (at least up until today - and I very glad to see the sun again!) and roasted up some eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes last night. I served this over risotto, but it would also work with pasta or on its own as a side dish.

8-10 whole cloves garlic, peeled and halved or quartered (if large)
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
2 medium sweet peppers, seeded and chopped
5-6 Roma tomatoes (or similar), seeded and chopped in large pieces
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Toss all ingredients in a 9x13-inch baking dish (or similar). Make sure everything is well coated with oil. Roast for 40-45 minutes, stirring every two or three times, until the vegetables are all nicely tender.

Serve hot.

Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Change in the Weather

Summer seems to have ended rather abruptly this year. The weather may yet warm up again for a while, but as we head toward September, we know it's not going to last. In the garden, our cukes are just about done and a couple of the tomato plants are too. The other tomatoes are slowing down, and so are the pole beans and eggplants. They'll keep going until we get a frost, but the pace of growth and production won't be what is was earlier this month. At the same time, we're already starting to see the fall crops come in. We've got delicata squash just about ready in the garden, and I saw a handful of other winter squashes at the farmers market last weekend.

We have a couple enormous kale plants in the garden that I've barely touched all summer, instead favoring the showier summer veggies, but last night I made Pureed Potato Soup with Kale and Bacon with our own leeks and potatoes, a perfect match for the weather.

And summer winds toward its end, we are also celebrating Massachusetts Farmers Market Week. With this post, I am participating in the Loving Local Blogathon - hosted by In Our Grandmothers Kitchens (Tinky Weisblat's blog). Check out the list of blogs and posts - you might discover a new favorite resource. And while you're at it, stop by the Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets and make a donation to help support these wonderful resources for local food all over the state.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Digital Scale

This is a handy item to have in the kitchen if you're doing much in the way of food preservation or large batch cooking (and actually, it's handy even for regular cooking). I have this one, but they are made by a variety of companies at a variety of price points. Mine will give weights up to 11 pounds and has a digital display with options for ounces, pounds, grams, and kilograms. It also has a tare option, which is great: put a container on the scale before turning it on and it will zero out the container's weight; or put the container on and hit the tare button.

Not only does the scale allow me to measure precise quantities to either follow recipes or record the amounts used in the ones I develop myself, it is also great for packaging food in uniform quantities for the freezer - and being able to add the weight to my labels so I know later how much I've got.

Peaches - Freezing, Drying, and Canning Jam

Saturday afternoon I picked up two pecks of peaches (that's about 16 quarts) from Clarkdale - where they are selling "orchard run" peaches for $25 for two pecks (or $15 for one). Orchard run fruit has been picked but not separated into first and second quality - generally a good deal for putting up. The quality of the two pecks I bought was great; all the peaches were ripe and most were in very good shape. I spent the rest of the weekend drying, freezing, baking, and making jam.

Freezing Peaches
Cut peaches in half and remove pits. Slice each half into four to six pieces. For best results, tray freeze the slices before packaging: arrange on trays, individual pieces separate from each other, and freeze for 6-8 hours. Then package in freezer bags (I do 1 lb of frozen slices per quart bag). If you don't have the time or patience to tray freeze, it's also ok to just dump all the slices into freezer bags and freeze that way. They will stick together in a giant clump, but if you plan to thaw before using, that's not a huge problem.

Drying Peaches
To dry peaches in a dehydrator, cut them in half and remove the pits. No need to peel unless desired. Then slice about 1/4-inch thick - a mandoline is great for this but a knife works, too. Instead of wedges, cut pieces of even thickness from the inside of a half to the outside. Spread slices on the dehydrator trays and dry for 9-12 hours. Check after 9 hours and remove any pieces that are completely dry; rotate the trays as well. Check every hour after 9 hours and remote dry pieces.
Using a mandoline to slice peaches into the dehydrator
Here's my recipe for Ginger Peach Jam. You can make this with fresh or frozen peaches. Skip the lemon juice if you like. You can also substitute ground ginger for the fresh.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Free Harvest Supper on Sunday

Don't miss the annual Free Harvest Supper in Greenfield, happening this Sunday, August 22!

If you have not been before, it's a fantastic experience: awesome local food donated by area farms and cooked up into delicious dishes by local restaurants and volunteers, all served up to you and 600 or so of your neighbors outdoors in Court Square. Admission is free, but volunteers pass the hat, raising funds for the Farmers Market Coupon program of the Center for Self-Reliance, which helps low income folks in our community get access to fresh, local food at the farmers market.

Another great feature of the Free Harvest Supper is the Really, Really Free Market. If you have extra veggies from your garden or CSA share, bring them for the market. Then, if you like, pick out some vegetables you don't have and take them home.

Freezing Green Beans

Like almost everything else in the garden this year, the pole beans are producing in abundance. I have frozen about 7 pounds so far and there are more coming along.

Green beans (or purple or gold...) are great to have in the freezer in the winter. They freeze well and can be added easily to a variety of dishes or steamed to eat straight. The freezing method is as follows:

Stem the beans and, if desired, cut or snap them into 1 to 2-inch lengths. Wash if needed. Blanch briefly (I find steaming in a large pot is the easiest way to do this but you can also use boiling water), then dunk or rinse in cold water to stop them from cooking further. Shake off the water as best you can, then package the beans in freezer bags, squeezing out all the air. I usually pack about 1/2 lb per quart bag - this is a good amount for adding them to stir fries or casseroles and if I need more I can just thaw multiple bags.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Slow Cooker Spare Ribs With Chutney

A few weeks ago we picked up a package of spare ribs from Bostrom Farm at the farmers market. Yesterday I cooked them in the crock pot with some tomato ginger chutney, and the result was fantastic. Super easy to put together, too. Another time I think I would try it with blueberry chipotle chutney. Barbecue sauce would also work well, of course. The chutneys make a good stand-in because they have similar sweet-spicy-tangy qualities. Try serving these with cornbread and a green salad.

2 lbs pork spare ribs
Salt and pepper
1 cup tomato ginger chutney

Thaw the ribs if they are frozen (I was able to thaw a package of them in hot water in about 15 minutes). Place them in the slow cooker, either as a whole rack folded over on itself or cut into four pieces. Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper, then cover liberally with the chutney on all sides.

Cook the ribs on Low for 6-8 hours. When they're done, the meat will be falling-off-the-bone tender.

Serves 4.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hunan-Style Eggplant with Bacon and Shiitake Mushrooms

This recipe is definitely a keeper. Try it, you'll like it!

Eggplant is in season right now (and abundant in my garden). Bacon can be had from local sources included Bostrom Farm, and Paul Lagreze of New England Wild Edibles sells lovely shiitake mushrooms. Serve this over rice.

1/4 cup canola oil
2 1/2 lbs eggplant, cut 1/4-1/2 inch thick (in rounds for the long skinny kind, or in quarters or eighths for the fat kind)
1/4 lb uncooked bacon, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp water or stock
Asian chili sauce to taste
6-8 scallions, sliced (white and green parts)

Heat the oil in a large skillet (better than a wok in this case). Add the eggplant and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until it is all tender. (Note: eggplant absorbs oil like crazy - don't add more after the oil is all absorbed or it will get too greasy in the end.) Remove the eggplant from the skillet and set aside.

Add the bacon to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and shiitakes and cook an additional 2 minutes or so, continuing to stir frequently. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, water or stock, and a bit of chili sauce and stir, then add the eggplant back to the pan. Mix well to get the eggplant well coated with sauce, then cook over low heat for a few minutes so it can really absorb the flavors. Stir in the scallions and turn off the heat.

Serves about 4.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chipotle Salsa for Canning

Another day, another mountain of slicers on the counter. This recipe makes a smaller batch than the last one, but the proportions are similar.

If you don't want to bother with proper canning, you can "refrigerator can" this stuff: ladle it into sterilized jars and top with sterilized lids and rings, then refrigerate. The jars will seal as the salsa chills, and the result will keep for a couple months in the fridge.

6-7 cups chopped tomato solids (see instructions below)
2 medium onions
1-2 sweet peppers
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, to taste (I used 3)
1/2 - 3/4 cup cider vinegar
Salt to taste

Core and seed tomatoes, and peel if it's easy to do so with a knife. Chop in a food processor until well chopped but not pureed. Pour into a colander or sieve and shake/toss until much of the liquid has drained out and a more or less solid mass remains. Remove to a bowl (or one of my favorite kitchen items, an 8-cup measuring bowl/cup with a pouring spout). Repeat until you have 6-7 cups. Drain again, then put in a large saucepan.

Chop the onions, peppers, and chipotles in the food processor until well chopped but not pureed (pulsing works well for this). Add to the tomatoes in the saucepan.

Bring the vegetable mixture to a boil. Add the vinegar (1/2 cup is enough, but add more if your taste buds think it needs it) and salt, then simmer for a few minutes.

The salsa is now ready to eat or can.

To can the salsa, ladle it into sterilized pint jars and top with sterilized lids and rings taken directly from hot water. Boil in a hot water bath for 15 minutes, then remove and cool on a rack. (Or use 1/2 pint jars and boil for 10 minutes.) You should hear the ping of each lid as it seals down. If any jar fails to seal, refrigerate and eat in the next week or two.

Yields about 4 pints.

Salsa for Canning

In the last three days I have picked 30 pounds of tomatoes from our garden (we have 9 plants). While the bounty is thrilling, it is also rather overwhelming. I have been drying the cherry tomatoes and freezing the paste tomatoes, but what to do with the mountain of slicers? It turns out salsa is a great way to use these juicier specimens.

The amount of whole tomatoes you will need for this recipe will vary depending on the variety (or varieties) you use, so I am not giving a set number of pounds to start with. I would make sure you have a good ten pounds or so on hand, though. Just keep chopping and draining until you have about 10 cups. You can also use more peppers than listed here, if you want - up to about 5 cups.

10 cups chopped and drained tomatoes (see instructions below)
3 cups seeded and chopped peppers (sweet and/or hot)
4 medium red onions
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 cup lime juice
1 cup chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

A food processor is the easiest way to deal with all the chopping for this recipe. Don't process to the point of pureeing - just pulse until everything is well chopped. Some chunks are fine.

Core each tomato and peel if it's easy to do so (as is true of some heirloom varieties). Squeeze out some of the liquid and seeds. Chop the tomatoes in a food processor, then dump out into a colander or sieve. Shake/stir/toss until much of the excess liquid has drained out and you have a semi-solid mass. Measure (number of cups) and set aside. Repeat process until you have 10 cups of the semi-solid tomato mass.

Chop the peppers and onions in the food processor as well, then place them in a large pot along with the tomatoes and cumin. Bring to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes. Add the lime juice, cilantro, and salt, and turn off the heat.

At this point you can eat or can the salsa.

To can the salsa, ladle it into sterilized pint jars and top with sterilized lids and rings taken directly from hot water. Boil in a hot water bath for 15 minutes, then remove and cool on a rack. (Or use 1/2 pint jars and boil for 10 minutes.) You should hear the ping of each lid as it seals down. If any jar fails to seal, refrigerate and eat in the next week or two.

Yields about 8 pints.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Buying in Bulk for Canning/Freezing/Drying

If you don't have enough from your own garden and you want to put summer produce up for the winter, now is the time to buy in bulk. This has been a particularly stellar year for a lot of crops, including tomatoes, so farms up and down the valley are overflowing. Most farms will do bulk orders if you ask in advance, and some will have large quantities available at farmers markets or at their farm stands. For example, at the Greenfield Farmers Market this morning, Crabapple Farm had dozens of 10-pound boxes of tomatoes for sale. The prices on bulk produce are just about always better (and sometimes a lot better) than you would get buying the same stuff in smaller quantities. For particularly good deals, look for "seconds" or "utility" produce. These items may have some bad spots or may just not look as pretty as the ones that get displayed at the market, and are usually perfectly well suited to canning or freezing.

If you plan to buy in bulk to freeze, can, or dry, time your purchase carefully. None of this stuff keeps for long, and utility fruits and veggies may have particularly short lifespans. So figure out when you will have time to put the food up, and then plan to purchase that morning or the day before.

Pizza with Blackberries, Basil, and Leeks

Be sure to use nice sweet berries for this. Tart ones will sound a dissonant flavor note.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
3-4 oz. shredded mozzarella
1 cup sliced leeks (about 2 fat ones)
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup blackberries (cut in half if very large)
1-2 oz. goat cheese (optional)
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat a little olive oil in a small skillet and saute the leeks for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Paint the pizza crust lightly with olive oil, then spread the mozzarella over it. Top with the sauteed leeks, then sprinkle with basil. Top the pizza with the blackberries, then with the goat cheese (if using). Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake the pizza for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is done, the berries are juicy, and the cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Freezing Blueberries

Blueberry season is approaching its end, so if you haven't stocked up on blueberries yet, now is the time!

We just picked up a 20lb box of low bush blueberries from The Benson Place in Heath and packaged them all for the freezer. (If you're wondering, 20 pounds of blueberries makes about 13 very full quart freezer bags.) Low bush blueberries are smaller and milder in flavor than their high bush cousins. They are very good for baking, particularly for muffins, pancakes, etc.

We also just picked up a 12-pint flat of high bush blueberries from one of the farms along River Road in Whately (alas, I don't know which one - my husband just stopped in on a whim and got the berries as he went by). We'll freeze most of these, too - with stronger flavor, they're great for smoothies and fruity desserts like pies and cobblers.

Freezing blueberries is super easy. If they're clean, just package them as is in freezer bags. If you need to wash them first, let them dry a bit before packaging. They don't stick together much, so you can fill a bag completely and then just remove whatever amount you need as you go along.

Another Way to Freeze Tomatoes

Each year I keep experimenting with freezing tomatoes, trying to find the best balance between effort and usability of the final product. Canning, of course, produces a result that is very high quality with very easy usability - but it's quite a lot of work up front. Freezing is quicker up front no matter how you do it, and it's also easier to do in small quantities - for example if you have just a couple pounds of tomatoes that will go bad if you don't do something with them.

So here's another method: This will work best for paste tomatoes (juicier ones will be too watery on thawing). Core and seed the tomatoes, then chop or dice. If you want a very finely chopped product, you could even do this with a few pulses in a food processor. Then package the tomatoes in quantities of 1-2 cups in quart freezer bags. Squeeze out the air, then spread the tomatoes out flat in a thin layer. Stack the bags in the freezer. Then, when you want to toss some chopped tomatoes into something you're cooking, you can thaw a bagful in a bowl of warm water in 10 minutes or so.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Potato Salad for a Crowd

This is a pretty basic, traditional potato salad, elevated from the humdrum by excellent ingredients and homemade mayonnaise. Use some of the incredibly delicious new potatoes available at farmers markets this time of year - fingerlings would be perfect, but any waxy type would work well. Red potatoes with the skin left on are nice visually, too. Feel free to halve or quarter the recipe if you're not making this for a party. The proportions for the mayo come from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

6 lbs potatoes, cubed (peel or not, your choice)
3 shallots, minced (about 1 cup)
8 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 cup snipped chives
1 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

1 uncooked egg
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp spicy mustard
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

You can make the mayonnaise while the potatoes cook (see below). To make the mayo, crack the egg into a blender, then add the lemon juice, about 1/4 cup of the canola oil, the mustard, and cayenne. Blend briefly, then slowly add the remainder of the canola and olive oil while the machine is running. The mayo will thicken and turn light yellow. Taste, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Boil the potatoes in a large pot of salted water until they are just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Combine the potatoes with the shallots, hardboiled eggs, chives, and parsley, then stir in the mayonnaise until everything is well coated. Refrigerate the salad until ready to serve.

Don't leave this salad out of the refrigerator for more than an hour.

Serves about 20.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer Stir-Fry with Peppers and Green Beans

It was a little bit of a thrill to make this dish, full of garden veggies but without a tomato or zucchini in sight! I made this with chicken, but it would work with whatever protein you like - beef, pork, tofu, tempeh, etc. Serve this over rice.

1 lb protein of your choice
Canola oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced ginger root
2 medium sweet onions, sliced lengthwise
1 lb green beans, cut into 1-2-inch lengths
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1-2 jalapeno or other hot peppers, seeded and minced (optional)
1/4 cup soy sauce, or to taste
1 Tbsp corn starch (optional; for thickening)
6-10 scallions, chopped
1/2-1 cup Thai basil leaves

Cook your protein in a wok or large skillet, then remove from heat and set aside.

Heat a bit of canola oil in the pan, then add the garlic, ginger, and onion and stir-fry over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the beans, peppers, and hot pepper (if using) and stir-fry for 3-5 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.

Stir the corn starch into the soy sauce, then add the soy sauce, scallions, and Thai basil to the pan and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat. Serve over rice.

Serves 4-6.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Freezing Tomatoes

Since I seem to be on the subject of tomatoes lately...

Freezing is also a great way to preserve the overflowing tomato harvest for later in the year. Frozen tomatoes work well in soups, stews, casseroles, etc., and can also be made into soup or sauce. There are several ways to do it, depending on how much work you want to put in up front versus later.

1. Easiest up-front, more work later: Remove cores and freeze whole tomatoes in freezer bags. Later, you can take them out and run them under warm water, which will help the skins slip off. Thaw (in microwave or on counter) and cook (chop first if needed). This is a good option if you are overwhelmed now and think you might make sauce or tomato soup or that sort of thing later in the fall or winter.

2. More work now, easier later: Core the tomatoes, blanch in boiling water, then peel. Squeeze out seeds and excess liquid, then freeze in freezer bags (squeezing out excess air). To use later, just thaw, then chop and cook.

3. Even more work now, easiest later: Proceed as in option number 2, but add the step of chopping before packaging in freezer bags.

Particularly important for #2 and #3: package tomatoes in single-meal quantities. So, if you often add 2 cups of chopped tomatoes to a soup or chili, pack that amount in each bag. If you need more, you can thaw multiple bags, but it's very hard to use a partial bag.

You can thaw frozen tomatoes in the microwave or on the counter. For options #2 and #3, you can also place a frozen bag in a bowl of warm water for an hour or so.

Drying Tomatoes

It has been a bumper crop of tomatoes so far this year, and it's only early August. It has been so hot, everything is early this year.

One of the things I've been doing with all these tomatoes is drying them. We have a home dehydrator (this inexpensive model, plus two extra trays), which makes it easy.

Cherry tomatoes work especially well for drying. Just cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, and place them skin side down on the trays. I find they usually dry in 9-12 hours (I generally run the dehydrator overnight, and try to pick dry days to improve the efficiency). Paste tomatoes are also good for drying. You can likewise cut them in half and seed them, but they take longer to dry because of their thicker walls. Slicer type tomatoes can work, too, though it's a bit more work. Cut them at least 1/2-inch thick and try to get out what seeds and liquid you can.

We have tomatoes in many different colors in our garden, and I enjoy looking at the pretty mix of dried ones that results - bright red, dark red, yellow, green, orange. Packaged in small jars, they also make nice gifts.

Garlicky Lamb and Tomato Stew with Chickpeas

This year's tomato growing experience couldn't be more different from last year. Where we had cold, wet weather and a plague of blight, this year has been hot and mostly dry - perfect tomato weather (as long as you water sparingly at the base).

I used lamb sausage for this stew, which was delicious, but stew meat would work well, too. You can absolutely skip the Parmesan rind, but if you happen to have one lying about, do use it - it adds a nice flavor.

1 lb lamb sausage
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups chick peas
1 1/2 - 2 lbs tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 4 cups)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Parmesan rind (optional)

Brown the meat in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Pour off most of the fat, then add the garlic and onion and saute over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the chickpeas and tomatoes, along with some salt and pepper. If you are using the Parmesan rind, give the stew a few minutes to turn more liquid-y before adding. Simmer the stew over low heat for 20 minutes or so (longer if you're using stew meat). Serve hot.

Serves 4-5.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Requested: Greens

Thanks, requesters - keep 'em coming! This is fun.

I actually don't tend to cook a lot of greens during the height of summer because there are so many other tasty summer crops available right now that have a much shorter season. Local greens are available nearly year round at this point, so I tend to cook them more often in the spring and fall, and winter when I can get them. What that means if you're looking for recipes is that you should try the search box at the top left corner of the page, or cruise through the archive listings. You can also try clicking on the tags (Blogger calls them labels) below each post: clicking a tag will bring up all posts that have that tag attached to it. For this one, I've tagged greens, chard, kale, spinach, arugula, bok choy, and sorrel.

Curried Zucchini and Tomatoes with Chick Peas

Yet another recipe that makes good use of piles of zucchini and tomatoes - it must be August! I hadn't made curry in a while, so this made a nice change from all the Mediterranean type things I've been cooking lately. This makes a good sized batch--you can halve it if you like, or freeze some for later. Serve this over rice.

1 Tbsp canola oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp minced ginger root
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 medium onions, chopped
1 1/2 lbs paste tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 lbs zucchini, diced
3-4 cups cooked chick peas
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp flour for thickening (optional)

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for about a minute over medium heat. Add the cumin, coriander, and some salt and pepper. Continue to saute, toasting the spices, for another minute or two. Add the onions and saute for 3-4 minutes, until soft. If things are sticking a lot, add a small splash of water. Stir in the tomatoes, zucchini, and chick peas, then cover and simmer until the vegetables are a bit soft, 15-20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

When the vegetables are soft, stir in the cilantro. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed. If you want to thicken the curry a bit, scoop out a bit of the liquid into a small glass or bowl. Stir in about 1 Tbsp of flour to form a paste, then stir the paste back into the curry.

Serve over rice.

Serves about 6.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pizza with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, and Feta

This is a great way to enjoy and show off heirloom tomatoes. Local feta is available from Chase Hill Farm.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
1 large tomato, in 1/4-inch slices
3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
4 oz crumbled feta

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

When the oven is hot, pre-bake the crust for about 7 minutes. Remove from the oven, leaving the oven on.

Spread the tomato slices over the crust, then scatter the basil over then. Top with the crumbled feta. Bake or another 10-12 minutes, until the cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Romesco Sauce

So here's what I did with the fire roasted red peppers. Romesco sauce is a traditional Spanish sauce. This recipe is adapted from many, many recipes that can be found on the Internet, all conceptually similar and none quite the same. It's one of those sauces that everyone's grandmother has a special recipe for. The result is sweet and pungent at the same time. In Spain it is typically served with grilled meat, seafood, and grilled vegetables. But you could also use it as a dip with veggies or pita chips, on bread or toast slices as an appetizer or tapa, even on pizza or with pasta (with pasta you might want to add in some roasted tomatoes).

8 oz. fire roasted red peppers
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup almonds, lightly toasted
2 large cloves garlic (or more to taste)
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chili powder (or more to taste)
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food process or blender and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

If you want to freeze this, it takes well to the same storage method I use for pesto: place single-meal quantities into freezer bags and press flat.

Packaging for the freezer

Makes about 2 cups.

Requested: Parsley

What to do with huge bunches of parsley? You can freeze it, of course - either in ice cube trays or simply chopped and sealed in freezer bags. But one of my favorite things to do is to make Parsley-Mint Pesto. The addition of mint is great but you can skip it if all you have is the parsley.

You can use the pesto on pasta (1 cup for 1 lb cooked pasta), where it is great on its own or with the addition of chopped red pepper, dried tomatoes, and/or shredded chicken. It's also good on pizza with whatever you like, tossed with potatoes, and even with winter squash.

You can make big batches of pesto now (and this goes for basil pesto, too, of course) and freeze it in single-meal quantities. Put 1/2 cup or 1 cup of pesto in a quart freezer bag, flatten it out, and stack them up in the freezer. You can thaw and warm it in a bowl of warm water in about 10 minutes.

Requested: Beets

In addition to cabbage, requesters have been asking for things to do with beets. I'm afraid I won't be as much help with this one - I don't much like beets, and neither does my husband, so we neither grow them nor buy them. When a bunch showed up in our fall CSA box last year, we gave them to our neighbors!

But, all that being said...I do have some basic ideas you might want to pursue, perhaps via Google. Summer beets can be eaten raw, for starters. Peel and slice. In fact, at Mag Pie in Greenfield a couple weeks ago, there were sliced Chioggia beets included in a bowl of raw veggies served to each table. The flavor was mild, a bit like a salad turnip. You can also grate raw beets and use them in salad. In fact, I bet some raw grated beets would work pretty well as an addition to any of the slaws listed here.

Beets can be pickled, either lightly for near-term eating or more heavily for storage.

You can roast beets, either alone or with other root vegetables. Try olive oil, garlic, and dill for seasoning. For that matter, try par-cooking them (boiling or steaming) and then grilling with the same seasonings.

And of course there's always borscht.

Good luck!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Fire Roasted Red Peppers

With the first ripe bell peppers ready to harvest from my garden, this weekend it was (lost past) time to deal with the last few packages of ones I froze last fall. I couldn't bear to just chuck them in the compost (note to self: this year, don't freeze quite so many peppers). So I stuck them all the grill. Fire roasted red peppers are incredibly tasty and can be used in a variety of ways. I'll follow up with another recipe for turning them into a sauce, but you can also use them as is on pizza, sandwiches, with pasta, etc. They have all the flavor you love in regular roasted red peppers, plus a little something extra from the grill. Thick-walled peppers work best for this; thinner ones get hard to peel.

You can, of course, do this with fresh peppers! But if you happen to be using frozen, you can also put those straight on the grill, no need to thaw first. They'll just take a little longer to grill.

2 lbs red bell peppers, stems and seeds removed

Cut the peppers into halves or quarters, so that the pieces are more or less flat. You want as much surface area right on the grill as possible.

Heat up the grill nice and hot. Lay the peppers out, skin side down, over the fire. Grill until the skin is well charred - you want it almost entirely black.

Fresh pepper halves lined up on the grill
Remove the charred peppers from the grill and let them cool. Once you can comfortably handle them, use a sharp paring knife to remove the skin. It should peel off easily; you can get it started by piercing a charred blister with the knife.

Charred peppers ready for peeling
Store the peppers in the fridge, where they will keep for at least a few days. If you would like to freeze them, either tray freeze them first or separate them with layers of waxed paper so you can remove individual pieces later.

Makes 1/2 lb roasted peppers.

Requested: Cabbage

Three commenters posting requests so far have all mentioned cabbage. At this time of year, in my opinion, the best way to use cabbage is in salads and slaws. (You can make these through the winter, too, with storage cabbage, when salad greens are harder to find.) Here are three good ones:

Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw (Clarkdale has its first apples in now)

Sesame Mustard Slaw

Spice Green and Purple Korean Cabbage Salad