Friday, February 26, 2010

Garlic and White Bean Soup with Orzo

This is an easy, Italian-style pantry soup. The recipe below is the simplest - yet still delicious - version. See the variations for ideas to dress it up. Use home-cooked beans if possible--their flavor and texture will make a real difference here. I like to cook up dried beans in large batches and freeze them in amounts that I will want for a single dish. This is excellent served with a rustic bread for dipping.

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup minced garlic
3-4 cups cooked white beans
4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock, more if desired
3/4 cup dry orzo
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the garlic and saute over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add the beans and stock and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot. Serves about 4.

Variations: Add additional seasoning (especially welcome if the beans are canned or were cooked without seasoning) such as bay leaves, rosemary, or sage. Add chopped cooked bacon or ham. Or add additional vegetables such as carrots.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pasta with Fennel Bacon Tomato Sauce

This simple recipe was the answer to both the need for a quick dinner and the rest of the bacon that I cooked up when I made the roasted fingerlings earlier this week. The tomato sauce and the fennel were both in our freezer from last summer/fall.

1 lb dry pasta
olive oil
3 cups tomato sauce
2 cups chopped fennel (frozen is fine)
4 strips cooked bacon, chopped
Grated Parmesan or shredded cheddar for topping (optional)

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water with a splash of oil. When ready, drain and return to the pot or a large serving bowl and toss with a little more oil.

While the pasta cooks, combine the tomato sauce, fennel, and bacon in a medium saucepan and simmer until warmed through (including any frozen fennel).

Toss the pasta with the sauce. Serve hot, topped with cheese at the table if desired.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lamb Chops with Garlic and Sage

Mmm, lamb chops. Always in season in the freezer. So easy to prepare, but such a treat every time.

6 or so cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 large or 8 small lamb chops, at room temperature

Mince the garlic or mash it in a mortar and pestle if you have one. Add the sage, salt, pepper, and olive oil and stir to form a paste. Spread this all over the lamb chops, rubbing it in well. Let them sit for as long as you have time for (if more than an hour or so, refrigerate, bringing them back up to room temperature before cooking). Even 20 or 30 minutes is beneficial.

Preheat the broiler, then broil the chops for about 4 minutes on each side for medium rare (add another minute or so if you prefer them medium).

Serves 3-4.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mid-Winter Fried Rice

Fried rice makes for a quick dinner and can be a great way to use leftovers or whatever vegetables you have in your fridge. Really the formula is simple: onion, garlic, and minced ginger plus several cups of vegetables, 1-2 cups protein, 3-4 cups cooked rice, and soy sauce. Fresh and frozen vegetables work equally well. The ingredients listed below are what I used in tonight's dinner, but you could substitute whatever you have on hand, either fresh or in the freezer. Mostly I just like to go for variety among the vegetables, and plenty of color. You can use whatever protein you like - tofu, tempeh, chicken, etc; leftovers can work well here.

1 Tbsp sesame oil (or canola oil)
1 large onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced ginger root
1 cup diced celeriac
2 cups diced carrots
1 1/2 cups diced red pepper
1-2 cups protein of choice (cooked if meat)
3-4 cups cooked rice (brown or white)
Soy sauce

Heat the sesame oil in a wok or very large skillet. Add the onion. If using tempeh, add it at this time as well. Stir fry over high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, celeriac, and carrots (or whatever other longer-cooking ingredients you are using). Stir fry another 3-5 minutes, until veggies are almost tender. Add the pepper (and/or any other more tender ingredients). Add tofu or cooked meat at this time as well. Stir fry until peppers are just tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and mix well, then stir in soy sauce to taste.

Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Roasted Fingerlings with Bacon and Dried Pear

Sweet and salty, soft and has probably become apparent by now that these are contrasts I enjoy in my food! And this, I have to say, is delicious. Of course, it's pretty hard to go wrong with roasted fingerling potatoes.

2 lbs fingerlings, in 1-inch chunks
1 medium shallot, roughly minced
3 Tbsp finely chopped dried pear
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
4 strips cooked bacon, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the fingerlings, shallot, pear, salt and pepper, and olive oil in a roasting pan (9x13 works well). Cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Remove foil and roast another 10 minutes, until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Add bacon. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.

Serves 4-6.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

I was going to call these Fall Harvest Pancakes, which they more or less are, but it seemed a little odd given that it's February... Anyway, they make lovely use of pumpkin (or winter squash), apples, and maple syrup. Other local ingredients: eggs, milk, wheat - not bad. Yum!

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup pureed pumpkin (or winter squash)
1/4 cup brown sugar (skip if using very sweet squash)
1/2 cup milk
Applesauce for topping, warmed
Maple syrup for topping

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking sold, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin, brown sugar, and milk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well. The batter will be relatively thick, with a fluffy texture.

Cook the pancakes in oil or butter in a skillet over low-medium heat, 3-4 minutes per side. Keep cooked pancakes warm in a low oven or on plate covered with a towel.

Top with applesauce and maple syrup at the table.

Serves 3-4.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pizza with Corn, Red Pepper, and Feta

Summer ingredients on a winter pizza - this is why I love my freezer. Local feta is available from Chase Hill Farm, sold at Green Fields Market (I got some at Winter Fare). The tapenade is entirely optional, but tasty. Not remotely local, of course, but hey - it's a condiment.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2/3 cup diced red pepper
2/3 cup corn kernels (thaw first)
2-3 oz. crumbled feta
2 Tbsp green olive tapenade (optional)
3-4 oz. mozzarella, shredded or in small chunks

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

Spread the tomato sauce over the pizza crust. Sprinkle with red pepper and corn, then with feta. Dot with small bits of tapenade, if using. Top with mozzarella.

Bake for 15 minutes, until crust is done and cheese is just beginning to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Turners Falls Winter Market - Next Saturday

Whether you missed Winter Fare in Greenfield or are just itching for some more great local food in the middle of winter, head on over to the Turners Falls Winter Farmers Market next weekend. It's a one day only market, to be held from 9am-noon at Turners Falls High School (222 Turnpike Rd., Montague). Winter storage veggies, meat, and more!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans with Summer Veggies

Without my slow cooker, I would probably never make it to the Y for after-work exercise. My preferred recipes are all ones where I can just dump a bunch of stuff straight from the freezer into the cooker in 15 minutes or less (preferably less). In the right combinations, this works remarkably well. Beans are a great base - you have to remember to soak them overnight, but the time requirement is minimal. If you leave frozen tomatoes out overnight alongside the beans, they'll be fairly well thawed come morning (unlike the other veggies, you want the tomatoes thawed so that their liquid is available as cooking liquid for the beans).

2 cups dry pinto beans
1 cup shredded zucchini (frozen is fine)
1-2 cups corn kernels (frozen is fine)
2 cups chopped/ground tomatoes (thawed if frozen)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot sauce for topping (optional)
Cheddar or jack cheese for topping (optional)

Soak the beans overnight in several times their volume of water. In the morning, drain and rinse.

In the slow cooker, combine beans, zucchini, corn, tomatoes, onions, cumin, oregano, and bay leaf. Add enough water to cover all the beans but not have them swimming. Cook on low for 9-10 hours or on high for 5-6 hours.

When beans are tender, add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice, topped with hot sauce and cheese at the table if desired.

Serves about 6.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ginger-Soy Soup with Tofu and Vegetables

This makes a colorful, light, Asian-style soup. If you have a food processor with a grating or julienning attachment to prepare the vegetables, it goes together very quickly. It also multiplies with little effort, so it's great for company. You can vary the vegetables with the season or what you have on hand. I made this with celeriac, carrots, garlic, and cilantro from Winter Fare plus red bell peppers from my freezer. Yum!

1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp grated or minced ginger root
8-9 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 cups shredded carrot
3-4 cups shredded celeriac
2-3 cups julienned red bell pepper
Water and/or stock (chicken or veggie)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1-2 tsp Asian chili sauce/paste (optional but recommended)
1 16-oz package firm tofu, in 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or 2-3 frozen cubes)
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the ginger and garlic and saute over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the carrot, celeriac, and pepper and enough water and/or stock to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then add the soy sauce, chili paste (if using), and tofu. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, 5-10 minutes. Add cilantro and salt if needed and serve.

Serves about 6.

Pear Ginger Muffins

You can use either fresh or dried pears here (or frozen, I suppose, if you have some - though I haven't tried that). They are lovely with ginger, and the whole wheat keeps these in the realm of muffins rather than cake. Soft white winter wheat, which makes whole wheat pastry flour, is available from Four Star Farms - I bought some at Winter Fare, but Green Fields Market also carries it in the bulk section. Upinngil Farm also sells both hard and soft wheat. You can use regular whole wheat flour here, too, but I prefer the texture of the whole wheat pastry flour.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups milk
1 medium pear, peeled, cored, and chopped (or 1/2 cup chopped dried pear)
1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger (optional)

Preheat the over to 400˚. Grease muffin tins to make 12 large muffins or 18 medium-sized ones.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger.

In a large bowl, combine the egg, vanilla, brown sugar, oil, and milk, and stir until the brown sugar is largely dissolved.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring just enough to combine and get rid of most of the lumps. Fold in the pear pieces. If desired, fold in the crystallized ginger with the pear, or save it to sprinkle on top after filling the muffin cups.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Makes 12 large or 18 medium-sized muffins.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sausage, Pepper, and Tomato Stew

Sweet Italian sausage from Wells Tavern Farm, peppers and tomatoes from my freezer, onions from Winter Fare...simple and satisfying. Cornbread would be a good accompaniment.

1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings (if any) removed
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
6 cups chopped green and/or red bell peppers (frozen is fine)
4-6 cups chopped tomatoes and their liquid (frozen or canned, thawed if frozen)
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 1/2 cups dry whole wheat macaroni
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the sausage in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Pour off most of the fat, then add the garlic and onion and saute over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the peppers and saute another 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and basil and bring to a boil. Add the pasta, bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook until pasta is tender, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chipotle Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew

This packs a bit of a punch, as most things with chipotle do. On the other hand, my two-year-old ate a surprising amount of it - he made a face with the first few bites, but kept spooning up more. If you open a can of chipotles in adobo sauce to make this, the remainder will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for months.

olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 cups cooked black beans (if seasoned, so much the better)
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, seeded and minced
1 Tbsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional toppings: cheddar, goat cheese, sour cream, or creme fraiche

Heat a little olive oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion and garlic and saute about 5 minutes, until soft. Add the black beans, sweet potatoes, chipotle, cumin, and salt and pepper. Add a little water if the mixture seems dry; remember that the sweet potatoes will give off some liquid as they cook. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sweet potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve hot, adding any of the optional toppings at the table.

Serves about 4.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Time to Place Orders for Beef Shares

Speaking of beef shares... If this is something you're interested in doing this year, now is the time to get organized. Farms typically take deposits around March. See the post linked above for more info.

Braised Dijon Beef Shanks with Root Vegetables

Beef shanks are an economical cut from the leg of the cow. They contain a substantial amount of bone and connective tissue, which means they are perfect for slow cooking in liquid. You wouldn't want to touch them after 30 minutes, but after a few hours, they are falling-off-the-bone tender, succulent, and deeply flavored. We got a few in our beef share this fall, and this is how I used them. The result is essentially a beef stew that also uses some of the many delicious local root vegetables available at this time of year. You can add a little dry red wine to this if you like. This is a great weekend dish; it doesn't require a ton of work, but you need to be able to start it during the afternoon. If you don't have shanks, this treatment would also work well for other tough cuts such as short ribs, oxtail, or even just stew meat.

2 1/2 - 3 lbs beef shanks
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, diced
1 1/2 cups stock (beef is best; chicken and veggie work too)
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
3 cups other root vegetables, cubed (such as celeriac, turnip, and/or rutabaga)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped parsley (fresh or frozen)

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees (to brown the beef; you can also do this on the stove if you prefer).

Trim the beef shanks of excessive fat and exterior connective tissue, but don't put too much effort into it. Pat it dry, then brush lightly with canola oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Roast for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until nicely browned on both sides. Remove from oven. Using a baster, take about 2 tsp of the fat from the pan and transfer it to a Dutch oven.

Heat the Dutch oven with the fat in it, then add the onions. Saute over medium heat until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, then place the shanks in the pot as well. Sprinkle with a little additional salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer covered for about 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add the potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables. Cover and continue to simmer until meat and vegetables are tender - at least an hour. Additional simmering time will generally be beneficial (I let this go on very low heat all afternoon). Just before serving, stir in the mustard and parsley and mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serves about 4.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Polenta with Feta and Roman Tomato Sauce

Well, Winter Fare was overwhelmingly awesome, as expected. I have no idea how many people came, but it was mobbed. The array of food was outstanding as well. If you ever thought eating locally in winter meant deprivation, this would have been enough to change your mind forever.

Among the (MANY) things we brought home were spinach, feta, and a quart jar of ground tomatoes. I heard that someone was selling polenta meal as well, though I did not see it myself - and we had more than enough at home already anyway. If you are wondering what the Roman part of the sauce is, it's the classic combination of greens, raisins, and balsamic vinegar, which I am told dates back to the Roman Empire.

3 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 cup polenta meal
4 oz. crumbled feta
black pepper to taste

olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped (or substitute 1 small onion)
1 quart crushed or ground tomatoes
1/3 cup raisins
1 1/2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
6 oz. spinach, stemmed and washed
1-2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Start with the polenta. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan (nonstick makes for easy cleanup). Add the salt, then slowly whisk in the polenta meal to avoid making lumps. Lower the heat to a simmer and stir frequently with a spoon until it reaches a pleasing thickness (time will vary with the coarseness of the grind; for instant polenta it will be very quick). Stir in the feta and pepper and mix well. Cover and set aside.

While the polenta cooks, make the sauce. Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the shallots and saute over low-medium heat for 8-10 minutes until they just start to caramelize. Add the tomatoes, raisins, salt and pepper and simmer for however much time you have. Then raise the heat and add the spinach, stirring until just wilted. Stir in the balsamic vinegar.

Serve the polenta in bowls, topped generously with the sauce. Sprinkle a little more crumbled feta over the top if desired.

Serves about 4.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Winter Fare Tomorrow

Don't miss Winter Fare tomorrow! It's at Greenfield High School from 10-2. Get there early for the best stuff. There will also be several great workshops, including one given by myself and Juanita Nelson from 10:15-10:45.

Next week I should be back to cooking and able to post some more recipes - this week got hijacked by a last minute business trip to New York. So go to Winter Fare and stock up on yummy winter food, then come back to the blog for some good recipes!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Drying Pears

Yesterday I got my dehydrator out for the first time in several months. On our last run to Clarkdale, we heard from the staff there that they expect to close for the season by the middle of this month - rather earlier than last year. They will be selling fruit and cider at Winter Fare on Saturday and anticipate selling out almost all of their remaining stock. So we bought a whole load of apples for drying and making applesauce. It won't be enough to see us through to the summer, but will get us part of the way there, anyway. I don't know whether Apex Orchards will be remaining open longer or not.

Along with the apples, we bought some pears, which Clarkdale still had a few of. I wanted to try drying them, because we are getting low on dried peaches and I think Nate is going to be distraught when they are gone. The pears dried beautifully with no special treatment. I just peeled them, cut them in half and scooped out the core, then sliced 1/4-inch thick and dried for about 7 hours. Their color held and the flavor is great - sweet and concentrated.