Monday, January 31, 2011

Roasted Chili-Lime Sweet Potatoes

Snow on the ground, more can at least let your taste buds go somewhere a little more tropical with these slightly addictive sweet potatoes.

1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 Tbsp canola, olive, or walnut oil
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 - 1 tsp chili powder

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the sweet potatoes in a bowl with the oil, lime juice, salt, and chili powder until well coated. Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet (use parchment paper for less mess if you like). Bake for 30-30 minutes, until tender and just slightly crisp on the outside. Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Friday, January 28, 2011

My Standard Chili

I thought I had posted this recipe at some point, but I can't find it so I guess I hadn't! I make this pretty often; it's an easy recipe and always seems to find a welcome reception. It also freezes well. This is excellent with cornbread.

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tsp ground cumin, or to taste
1 tsp chili powder, or to taste
2 bell peppers, diced (red, green, or one of each; frozen is fine)
2-3 chili peppers, seeded and minced (optional; frozen is fine)
1 cup corn kernels (frozen is fine)
3 cups cooked black beans or kidney beans (drained and rinsed if canned)
3 cups chopped or ground tomatoes with their liquid (canned or frozen is fine)
1 lb ground beef (thawed)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional; frozen cubes are fine)

Heat a little olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the onion and garlic and saute 2-3 minutes. Add the cumin and chili powder and mix well, then add the peppers, chili peppers (if using), corn, beans, and tomatoes with their liquid. Add a little extra water if needed. Mix well, then cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Extra simmering time is fine.

While the vegetables simmer, cook the beef in a separate pan. When it is cooked through, drain off the fat and add the beef to the vegetables. Simmer another few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust other seasonings as needed. Stir in the cilantro if using.

Serves 4-6.

Cooking from the Freezer

It's gotten remarkably easy to come by local winter foods all through the cold months here in the Pioneer Valley, and there's really quite a variety available - but even so, I still sometimes get tired of root vegetables and greens. This is where the freezer comes to the rescue (not to mention that a full freezer means less grocery shopping and there's always something to cook!). If you followed this blog through the summer and fall, you know that I froze a lot of different vegetables, some from our garden (like the bumper crop of green beans) and some from local farms (corn, tomatoes, extra peppers). The key for me is to have some variety and make sure that most of what I freeze can be used for lots of different types of dishes.

In the past week I've made a couple vegetable-heavy dishes straight from my freezer stocks: chili with beef from our share, black beans I had cooked and frozen previously, tomatoes, corn, and red peppers; and last night fried rice with edamame, red peppers, corn, and green beans from the freezer. So easy, so delicious!

If you're interested in learning more about freezing food, come check out my workshop at Greenfield Winter Fare on Saturday, Feb. 5 (time TBD - I'll post it when I know).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Malay-Style Curried Beef Stew with Vegetables

This is adapted from a recipe in How To Cook Meat by Christopher Schlesinger and John Willoughby. I simplified it a bit, adjusted the seasonings, and add vegetables. The result is savory, spicy, hearty and satisfying - and my increasingly picky three-year-old scarfed it right down. Serve it straight up or, if you like, over rice.

2 lbs stew beef or cubed chuck
3 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp cayenne
Salt and pepper
3-4 Tbsp canola oil
3 medium onions, sliced lengthwise
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 Tbps minced ginger root (about a 1-inch chunk)
2 Tbsp curry powder
2 red peppers, in chunks (frozen is fine)
2 large carrots, in rounds
1 can light coconut milk
2-3 cups water or beef stock
2-3 Tbsp lime juice

Toss the beef in a bowl with the flour, cayenne, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper and mix to coat well.

Heat about 2 Tbsp of the oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot until it is hot but not smoking. Add the beef and brown thoroughly on all sides. Set the pot aside.

In a large skillet, heat another 1-2 Tbsp of oil and add the onions. Saute over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic, ginger, and curry powder and cook, stirring frequently, for another 2-3 minutes. Add a splash of water to loosen what's stuck to the bottom of the pan, and scrape it all into the Dutch oven with the beef.

Add the peppers, carrots, and coconut milk to the Dutch oven, then add enough water or stock to just cover the meat. Simmer for at least an hour, and as long as three hours if you have time. Before serving, add the lime juice, taste, and adjust seasonings.

Serves about 6.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Greenfield Winter Fare - Workshop Poll

I will be giving a workshop at the Greenfield Winter Fare on Saturday Feb. 5. Yet to be determined: the precise topic. So here's an informal poll: which of these two subjects would you find more interesting?

1. A how-to on freezing and drying

2. A presentation and then discussion on the many ways to cook winter vegetables

Please leave a comment with your preference!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Slow Cooker Ham and White Bean Stew

After Christmas, we were in a rush to leave town, so I just shoved the leftover ham in the freezer. Yesterday I took some of it out and made this simple and tasty stew in the crock pot. Remember that you'll need to soak the beans overnight if you plan to start the stew in the slow cooker in the morning. This is a slightly different take on a soup I made around this time two years ago.

1 1/2 cups dried white beans
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, quartered
2-3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
Black pepper to taste
2-3 cups chopped cooked ham
Salt to taste

Soak the beans overnight in a couple times their volume of water.

In the morning, drain and rinse the beans and place them in the slow cooker. Add enough water to cover them by about 1/2-inch. Add the bay leaf, onion, garlic, and pepper, put the cover on, and cook on High for 7-9 hours.

Optional: when the beans are tender, you can puree them fully or partially. If you opt to do this, be sure to remove the garlic, onion, and bay leaf first.

Add the ham somewhere behalf mid-day and serving time (and, if you choose to puree the beans, after you have done so). Remove the garlic, onion, and bay leaf if you have not already done so, and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Roasted Tomato Sauce with Green Beans and Bacon

A hearty pasta sauce with ingredients from the freezer. This makes enough for 2 pounds of pasta, so if you're not feeding a crowd you can freeze half for another meal.

If you need to peel frozen whole tomatoes, just run them under warm water and slip off the skins.

5 lbs whole tomatoes, cored and peeled (frozen is fine)
6-8 strips bacon, uncooked
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb green beans (frozen is fine, but thaw first)
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of dried basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the tomatoes in a roasting dish, then roasted for 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and drain in a colander, reserving the liquid.

While the tomatoes roast, fry the bacon in a Dutch oven. When it is done, drain on paper towels and pour off most but not all of the fat from the pot. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until nicely soft. Add the green beans and cook, stirring frequently, until tender.

Add the tomatoes to the Dutch oven and mix well. Add in a little of the reserved liquid at a time until the sauce reaches a nice consistency (you won't need all the liquid). Finely chop the bacon and add it to the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste, plus a pinch of dried basil. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Makes 2-3 quarts.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Creamy Squash Soup with Shallots and Tarragon

This makes for a silky smooth, rich, creamy soup with sophisticated flavor. If you roast the squash ahead of time, this goes together quite quickly. To really do it up, substitute heavy cream for some or all of the milk.

3 lbs winter squash
2 Tbsp butter
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
2-3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 cup whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste

To roast the squash, cut it in half the long way and scoop out the seeds. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the cut squash face down in a baking pan with edges and pour in about 1/4 inch of water. Roast for 45-60 minutes, until very tender. Allow to cool, then scoop out the flesh.

While the squash cools (or, if you roasted it ahead of time, when you are ready to prepare the soup), melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute for about five minutes. Add the squash and stock and combine well.

Puree the soup using an immersion blender (or in batches in the blender or food processor) until nice and smooth. Add the bay leaf and tarragon and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the vinegar, then turn off the heat and stir in the milk. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves about 4.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Provencal-Style Braised Short Ribs

Back again after another long trip, and enjoying the three day weekend with a little leisurely cooking. There's not a huge amount of labor involved in this dish, but you need to let it simmer for at least an hour and a half, so plan to make it on a day when you can start cooking in the afternoon.

Try serving this with polenta (stir in some grated Parmesan and butter when the polenta is done cooking) and Green Beans with Shallot Mustard Sauce. A green salad and some good bread would also work well.

3 lbs beef short ribs (shanks would also work)
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, in chunks
2 heads garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups canned tomatoes and their liquid
1 cup dry red wine
2 sprigs rosemary

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Season the short ribs all over with salt and pepper, then place them in a roasting pan and roast for 25-30 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove from oven.

While the short ribs brown, heat the olive oil in a heavy Dutch oven. Add the garlic and saute over medium-high heat for about a minute. Add the onions and saute over medium heat for another 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their liquid (if using whole tomatoes, mash them in the pot), the wine, and the rosemary. Simmer until the meat is browned.

When the short ribs are done in the oven, place them in the Dutch oven. The should be about 3/4 covered by the liquid. If additional liquid is needed, you can add more tomatoes, more wine, or some beef stock. Cover the pot and simmer over very low heat for at least 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender.

Serves about 4.

Variations: try this with other tough cuts of beef like shanks or oxtail. Lamb shanks would also be a good choice.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Find Your Favorite Farms on Facebook

Western Mass farms are increasingly getting on Facebook, which provides a great way for them to communicate directly with us, their customers. If you're on Facebook, look for your favorites. See, for example, the FB pages of:

Clarkdale Fruit Farms

The Kitchen Garden

Four Star Farms

Enterprise Farm

Red Fire Farm

Many if not all of these farms also have their own websites (as do many farms not using social media), but the Facebook presence lets you hear from them without having to remember to go looking. Enjoy!

Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese

It takes some time to caramelize the onions, but otherwise this is an easy and simple recipe. Caramelized onions are so good you might want to make up a larger batch at once and save some for additional dishes in the coming days; they keep well in the fridge.

Olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 14-inch pizza crust
1/2 cup tomato sauce
3 oz. chevre

Heat about 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and stir to coat. Cook them gently over low or low-medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until they are very soft and nicely brown. This should take 30 minute or so, though you can cook them longer if you have time and want to really maximize the dark brown caramel-y goodness.

While the onions caramelize, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, shape your crust and lightly paint it with olive oil. Spread the tomato sauce over the crust in a thin layer.

When the onions are ready spread them over the pizza, then top with chunks of goat cheese. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is done and the cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Northampton Winter Fare - Jan. 15

With the Springfield Winter Fare behind us - and by all accounts a great success - the Northampton Winter Fare is coming right up. Save the date for next Saturday, January 15 and head on down to Smith Vocational and Technical School from 10-2 for loads of great local food!

Then, the granddaddy, Greenfield Winter Fare, will be coming up on Saturday, February 5, from 10-2.

It's getting so easy to get a variety of local food straight through the winter around here that it's hard to believe only a few years ago I doubted it could be done without subsisting solely on turnips and squash from one's own root cellar. Times are changing, and fast.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Preparing the Christmas Ham

Our ham from Hager's Farm Market turned out to be a real success. As with the ham from Bostrom Farm two years ago, it was one of the best I've ever eaten.

This year my mom cooked the ham, preparing it with a sensational sour cherry-thyme glaze. The recipes for the ham, the glaze, and the also excellent clementine-peppercorn glaze I used two years ago all came from the New York Times. Here are the links:

Sour Cherry-Thyme Glaze

Clementine-Peppercorn Glaze

Glazed Holiday Ham

Green Beans with Shallot Mustard Sauce

Happy New Year! As might be obvious, I've been away for the holidays. But now I'm back, and with a few recipes to share. This one was a major hit at Christmas dinner. I used green beans from our garden that I froze last summer.

1/4 butter
1 large shallot, minced
2 tsp spicy brown mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 lbs green beans, cut in 2-inch lengths (thawed if frozen)

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then add the shallots and saute gentle for several minutes. Stir in the mustard, then add salt and pepper to taste. Keep sauce warm while you cook the beans.

While making the sauce, steam the green beans until tender. Remove beans to a bowl and toss thoroughly with the sauce. Serve hot.

Serves 6-8.