Sunday, May 30, 2010

Wild Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

Paul Lagreze of New England Wild Edibles was at the farmers market on Saturday with a huge chicken of the woods mushroom that he was selling off in chunks. (Interestingly, he was also selling shiitake logs, already inoculated, for those interested in growing their own.)

I had never tried this kind of mushroom before so decided to give it a go. They are fairly dry as mushrooms go, and quite meaty in texture, with a flavor surprisingly like chicken - hence the name. Mushrooms of virtually all kinds go beautifully with asparagus, also currently in season (and probably not for much longer with the heat we've been having). If chicken of the woods is not available, try any other flavorful mushroom.

3 Tbsp butter (2 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp)
2 spring onions, finely chopped (about 1-1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 lb wild mushrooms, cleaned and diced
1/2 lb asparagus, tough ends snapped off, in 1/4-inch rounds
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt 2 Tbsp of the butter in a pressure cooker (uncovered). Add the spring onions and saute over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and saute, stirring, for another 2 minutes or so. Add the stock, stir well, then cover and bring to pressure. Cook on high pressure for 7 minutes, then remove from heat and release pressure manually.

While the rice cooks, melt the remaining 1 Tbsp of butter in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms and asparagus and saute over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until tender.

Stir the vegetables into the risotto. Stir in the Parmesan, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve 4-6.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Strawberries!!

The first strawberries of the season were at the farmers market this morning. Yippee! We had some with brunch and they were excellent, as local strawberries almost always are--soft, sweet, and bursting with flavor. If it's not too hot tomorrow, I'll pick up some local cream and make strawberry shortcake.

I have posted an array of strawberry recipes here over the last year. Click here to see everything tagged with "strawberries". (Or type into the search box at the top left of the page.)

Grilled Asparagus with Green Garlic and Rosemary

It is way too early in the year to have had so many too-hot-to-cook-indoors days already. But here we are, getting a lot of use out of the grill.

Green garlic (tender young garlic that has not yet formed bulbs; you can eat the whole stalk) is in season along with asparagus, and a few weeks ago I finally replaced the rosemary plant that I killed over the winter.

1 stalk green garlic, minced (about 3-4 Tbsp)
1 - 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 lb asparagus, tough ends snapped off

Combine the green garlic, rosemary, olive oil, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Spread generously over the asparagus stalks.

Grill the asparagus over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes, until tender.

Serves about 4.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Stir-Fried Bok Choy with Red Peppers and Steak

Leftover steak makes really good stir-fries, especially if already seasoned with an Asian theme. I harvested a bunch of bok choy from my garden that was already going to seed in the hot weather, and added a couple red peppers from the freezer (still using those up!) along with scallions and spring garlic from the farmers market. Serve this over rice.

If you don't have leftover steak, you can either quickly grill one or slice the meat then and stir fry it, then set aside while you cook the rest of the ingredients.

Canola oil
3-4 stalks green garlic, finely chopped
2 red peppers, chopped (frozen is fine)
1/2 lb bok choy
2 cups chopped scallions
3/4 lb thinly sliced cooked steak
1 Tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
Chili paste to taste (optional)

Heat the oil in a wok or very large skillet. Add the garlic and peppers and stir-fry over high heat for 2 minutes or so. Add the bok choy (in batches if necessary) and scallions and stir-fry until the bok choy is wilted.

While you do this, stir together the corn start, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce. Add this along with the steak and cook, stirring, just until the sauce thickens. Stir in chili paste to taste, if using. Remove from heat and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Popsicles

The weather has turned hot and, with an almost-three-year-old in the house, we decided it was time to invest in popsicle molds. Though to tell the truth, my husband and I have been enjoying them almost as much as the boy has.

You can put almost anything in a popsicle mold, of course. As a kid, we always had pudding pops. But I've been making them from yogurt and fruit. As in: combine yogurt and fruit (fresh or frozen) of your choice in the blender, blend until smooth, then pour into molds and freeze. Nutritious, low in sugar, and totally refreshing. Totally local, too. We're using up the last of the strawberries, blueberries, and peaches that we froze last summer; as the summer goes on we'll switch to fresh stuff. Yum.

Goat Meat

New discovery at the Greenfield Farmers Market yesterday: goat meat. It's for sale by Balky Farm (in Northfield), which also sells lamb and, or perhaps I should say primarily, yarn and wool products. Goat is not something I have seen for sale locally before now. It's not widely eaten in the U.S., except among some immigrant communities. My only personal experience with it was many years ago as an exchange student in Ecuador. And to tell the truth, I can't recall the precise flavor - I just remember liking it. So I think next week I'll pick some up, and in the meantime, I'll explore recipe options. Goat is fairly commonly used in Indian cuisine, as well as Caribbean and Latin America dishes. Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Grilled Ginger-Sesame Steak

Only a few steaks left from our beef share...I think we may actually find ourselves buying some more before we take delivery of our next share this fall. So easy and quick on the grill in hot weather. If you want to punch this up a bit, you can add some cayenne or Asian chili paste to the marinade.

2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced ginger root
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 - 2 lbs steak (thawed if frozen)

Combine the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a small bowl and set aside.

Pat the steak dry, then season with salt and pepper on both sides. Spread generously with the marinade mixture on all sides. Let sit for 30-60 minutes, if you have time.

Grill the steak over a hot fire, 4-5 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Serves about 4.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Founding Farmers?

I'm on the road for work - in Washington DC to be specific - and just enjoyed a great dinner at a local- and farm-focused restaurant here, called Founding Farmers.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pizza with Leeks, Feta, and Sage

I got some gorgeous, fat leeks at the farmers market that had been over-wintered. Yum!

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
2-3 fat leeks, thinly sliced
1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2-3 oz. crumbled feta
2-3 oz. shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly paint the pizza crust with olive oil.

Heat a little olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the leeks and saute over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes, until tender. Stir in the sage at the last minute, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Spread the tomato sauce over the pizza crust. Top with the leek mixture, then sprinkle with feta and mozzarella.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until crust is done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tomato Soup with Mint, Scallions, and Coconut

I am finally making a dent on the tomato situation in the freezer, and I picked up scallions and mint at the farmers market today (where I noticed several vendors had herbs - just the cold-hardier ones, but still: mint, oregano, tarragon, sage, etc.) This soup has a Southeast Asian flair.

If you use frozen tomatoes, you can thaw them first in the microwave. Or, if you plan ahead, get them out in the morning and let them thaw on the counter.

Canola oil
2 Tbsp minced ginger root
2-3 cups sliced scallions (white + green parts, kept separate)
8 cups tomatoes and their liquid (canned or frozen is fine)
Salt to taste
3/4 cup chopped fresh mint, loosely packed
1-2 Tbsp lime juice
1 cup coconut milk
A few drops of Thai fish sauce (optional)

Heat the canola oil in a soup pot, then add the ginger and the white parts of the scallions. Saute over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes and their liquid along with some salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Puree the soup, either with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender or food processor. If you want a super-silky texture, put it through a food mill or push it through a fine sieve (I didn't bother; a more rustic texture is fine with me). Add the mint, the green parts of the scallions, lime juice, the coconut milk, and fish sauce (if using). Simmer for 5 minutes or so. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Variations: Substitute cilantro or Thai basil for some or all of the mint.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Buy A Freezer

The most serious stocking-up period doesn't start until later in the summer, but now is definitely not too early to start planning and making preparations. Asparagus season won't last that much longer, if you want asparagus in your freezer later in the year. And we're only a few weeks away from strawberry season - which only lasts a few weeks itself. So: if you don't have a chest freezer yet, and you have room somewhere to cram one in, start looking into it!

Chest freezers come in an array of sizes, from as small as 5 cubic feet to 28 cubic feet or more. Ours is 10 cubic feet, and it's not huge. We have it stuck back in a corner of our mudroom. But it has kept us going all winter and now I have shifted to actually trying to use stuff up before I am ready to start putting new stuff in. Chest freezers are not all that expensive, either.

If you're going to invest in a freezer, I do strongly recommend a chest freezer over an upright freezer. Not only is it more efficient storage space, it's also a LOT more energy efficient. Every time you open the door of an upright, the cold air starts falling out. Whereas with a chest freezer, you open the top and the cold air mostly stays put. Because of this efficiency, and the fact that you are unlikely to be in an out of it all the time, chest freezers cost surprisingly little to run. I believe the quoted yearly cost to run ours was around $36.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pasta with Ramp and Bacon Tomato Sauce

This will probably be my last post about ramps until next year... I was not expecting to see any more at the farmers market this past weekend, but lo and behold, Paul Lagreze (of New England Wild Edibles) was there with a few bunches left. The tops were getting past their prime, but the bulbs were big and gorgeous. Like many of their onion-y kin, ramps go nicely with bacon.

4-6 oz. bacon
1 lb uncooked pasta
1 bunch ramps, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 cups tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Start by cooked the bacon over medium heat. While you do this, heat a large pot of salted water for the pasta. Cook the pasta, drain, and set aside. When the bacon is done, drain on paper towels, then chop.

Saute the ramps in the rendered bacon fat until they just start to turn translucent (you want them to retain some crunch), then scoop them out into a medium saucepan. Add the tomato sauce and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the cooked pasta with a little olive oil, then either toss with the sauce or top with sauce at the table. Serve hot. No need for cheese.

Serves about 4.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Quiche with Goat Cheese, Ramps, and Basil

Continuing on the ramps and goat cheese theme... I served this for Mothers Day brunch. I snipped a little fresh basil from our early seedlings - so good! I always like to start a little along with the tomatoes so I get a little preview ahead of the real season. Combine with local eggs and milk and you've got a great brunch or dinner item.

1 9-inch pie shell, unbaked
4 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz goat cheese
3/4 - 1 cup chopped ramps (bulbs, stems, and leaves)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil (optional but really good)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line the pie shell with aluminum foil and top with pie weights (I keep some dried beans dedicated for this purpose). Pre-bake for about 12 minutes. Remove the pie weights and foil and bake an addition 5 minutes. Set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, then stir in the milk and salt. Set aside.

Spread the goat cheese over the bottom of the pastry shell, then add the ramps and basil. Pour the egg mixtures over it all.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees, or until eggs are set. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.

Serves about 4.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Risotto with Ramps and Goat Cheese

Ramps are a spring treat, harvested wild around here. This recipe uses both the bulb part and the leaves and stems, which are also flavorful. I bought a couple bunches at the farmers market last weekend (along with the goat cheese), but we probably won't see them again this time. So if you don't have access to ramps, feel free to substitute scallions or spring onions. The flavor will be a bit different but should work just as well.

These directions are for pressure cooker preparation, but feel free to adapt them to the stovetop. Quantities are the same, but you add the liquid slowly, waiting until each addition of 1/2 cup or so is absorbed before adding more.

2 Tbsp olive oil or butter
1/2 cup chopped ramp bulbs
1 1/2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
3 cups water or veggie stock (I like to use 1 veg bouillon cube)
1 1/2 cups chopped ramp stems and leaves
1 1/2 oz. goat cheese
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil or butter in your pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Add the ramp bulbs and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes or so until it all turns nicely translucent. Add the liquid. Put the cover on, lock it, and bring the cooker up to pressure. Cook for 7 minute at pressure, then remove from heat and release pressure.

Stir in the ramp stems and leaves, goat cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Serves 4-5.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Applesauce Spice Muffins (Dairy-Free)

I put this recipe together this morning so that my visiting 20-month-old nephews, who are allergic to milk products, could have some. In addition to moisture and flavor, the applesauce adds sweetness, so that very little additional sugar is needed. I used some of the applesauce that I made and canned a few months ago from Clarkdale apples. If you like, you can substitute 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour for the all purpose and regular whole wheat.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cups applesauce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease tins for 12 larger or 18 medium-sized muffins.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and baking powder in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine the egg, oil, and applesauce. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined. Spoon the batter into muffin tins, then bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Makes 12-18 muffins.

Fish Chowder

Try this with local barramundi - farmed in Turners Falls and available in local supermarkets. I made this with potatoes from the farmers market (the last few stored from last year), local onions from Fosters, and corn and parsley from my freezer.

2 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 lbs potatoes, cubed (peeled if desired)
3 Tbsp flour
Water or veggie stock
1 cup corn (frozen is fine)
1 1/2 - 2 cups flaked cooked fish
1 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped parsley (frozen is fine)
Salt and pepper

Heat the butter in a soup pot. Add the onion and saute for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and saute, stirring, for a minute or so. Stir in the flour and make sure everything gets well coated, sauteing for another 1-2 minutes. Add water and/or vegetable stock to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

When the potatoes are done, you may opt to puree a little of the soup for a thicker, creamier texture. You can do this with an immersion blender or by removing 1-2 cups or soup, pureeing in a blender or food processor, and returning it to the pot. Or you may choose to leave it as is, thickened only by the flour.

Add the corn and fish and simmer until heated through, a few minutes. Stir in the milk and parsley, then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Serves about 6.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Grilled Steak with Pesto

I can't believe how hot it was this weekend! I couldn't bear the thought of cooking inside, so we grilled a lot. And since I still have loads of pesto in the freezer (note to self: could actually free less this year), I thought it might be good on steak. It is. It's also good on grilled asparagus, which we had alongside the steak. (Also not bad on fried eggs, or mixed into scrambled eggs.)

Steak to serve two people
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup basil pesto

Take the steak out of the fridge about an hour before you plan to cook it, so it can come to room temperature (maybe a little less time if it's very hot!). Pat it dry, then season liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. Let sit for an hour or so.

Grill the steak over a hot fire for 4-5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Top with pesto at the table.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Grilled Hoisin Pork Chops

This is super easy and fast, and it lends a nice Asian flair to the pork chops. You can find hoisin sauce in most grocery stores.

Pork chops to serve 2 people
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tsp hot sauce, or to taste

Pat the chops dry and trim of excess fat. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and let sit for 30-60 minutes to come to room temperature. Combine the hoisin sauce and hot sauce (if using) in a small bowl. Add a teaspoon or two of water to thin it if desired.

Grill the chops over a medium-hot fire, about 5 minutes per side for 1-inch thick chops (less for thinner ones; check for doneness as you go). About 1-2 minutes before they are done, paint on both sides with the hoisin mixture and finish cooking.

Serves two.

Basic Grilled Asparagus

We bought some asparagus at the farmers market this morning and took advantage of the hot weather to grill it up for dinner. There are lots of ways to do grilled asparagus, with various seasonings (see this prior post on the subject). But when it's really fresh, it's fantastic with just a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Asparagus, in whole spears
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Wash the asparagus and snap off tough ends as needed. Lay it out in a single layer on a plate or baking pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss a little bit to coat.

Grill asparagus over a medium-hot fire for 7-8 minutes, turning once or twice.

Farmers Market Report

It was a gorgeous day and a great opening for the Greenfield Farmers Market. There were lots of vendors and a remarkable array of products for sale - including more vegetables than you might think. I spotted a couple of new vendors, as well.

We came home with: eggs, bread, feta, goat cheese, black currant cordial (more on this in a future post), mixed greens, potatoes, asparagus, ramps, ground lamb, and a rosemary plant to replace the one I managed to kill over the winter (yes, it was inside). Among the other vegetables I saw available were carrots, celeriac, chard, kale, sorrel, scallions, and leeks. I was hoping for radishes but didn't spot any - though I was able to pull the first few from our garden this evening. There was also beef and pork, other kinds of cheese, maple products, honey, jam, and a variety of crafts. Plus loads of starts and bedding plants. Yippee! I do love the farmers market.

New businesses in town, Greenfield Coffee and Raven Books, right across the common from the market, were taking advantage of the foot traffic to welcome new customers with free coffee and tea and some free kids books respectively.