Monday, February 28, 2011

Baked Polenta with Baby Spinach and Feta

Picked up some delicious, fresh, local baby spinach at Green Fields Market a few days ago. I love that we can get local greens all winter long now! Add some local feta to it here and, if you were lucky enough to get some at Winter Fare, polenta from local corn.

If you are using plain, unseasoned tomato sauce, zip it up with a bit of sauteed garlic and onion and a bit of oregano.

3 cups water
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 cup polenta cornmeal
Olive oil
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 lb baby spinach, stemmed and chopped
2-3 oz. crumbled feta
3 oz. shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the salt, and whisk in the polenta meal. Lower the heat to a simmer and continue to stir with a spoon. Be careful, as the cooking polenta is viscous and can bubble up and burn you. Cooking time will vary with the type of polenta you are using. The kind I get at Green Fields Market, in the bulk section, thickens up very quickly. You want it to be pretty stiff for this application. When the polenta is cooked, remove from heat, cover, and set aside for now.

Oil a 10-inch oven-proof skillet or a 7x11-inch baking dish. Spread the cooked polenta in the bottom. Top with the sauce, then pile on the chopped spinach. Sprinkle with feta, then top with mozzarella.

Bake the polenta for about 15 minutes, until the cheese begins to brown and the spinach is wilted. Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pesto Pizza with Roasted Potatoes and Feta

This is a really good one. I love having a stash of pesto in the freezer all winter long. You can add mozzarella on top of this if you like, but it's not at all necessary and the presentation is quite lovely without it.

3 small potatoes (about 1/2 lb), peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick
olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 14-inch pizza crust
1/2 cup basil pesto
1 medium shallot, minced (optional)
2-3 oz. crumbled feta

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay the slices potatoes out in a single layer on a baking sheet and paint lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until soft.

While the potatoes roast, form the pizza crust and paint it lightly with olive oil. Spread the pesto over the crust.

When the potatoes are done, remove them from the oven and turn the heat up to 450 degrees. Lay the potatoes in a single layer over the pesto. Sprinkle the shallots over the potatoes, then add the feta. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is done and the cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sweet and Savory Balsamic-Braised Beef Shanks

Another great winter braise to make on the weekend. If you don't have beef shanks, this would also work well with any other tough, bone-in cut, such as short ribs, or even a pot roast. This is excellent with mashed potatoes.

I like to make this type of braise by browning the meat in the oven, then simmer on the stove top, partly because it's easy and you can do all the meat at once and partly because it involves a lot less smoke. But you can also brown on the stove top. For that matter, you can also cook the braise in the oven (at about 300 degrees) if you prefer. I like to do it on the stove top so I can check on it more easily.

If you like, you can substitute dry red wine for some of the beef stock.

4 lbs beef shanks
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dried lemon zest (or 1-2 tsp fresh)
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 lb plum tomatoes, finely chopped (frozen or canned is fine)
1/2 cup raisins
A few cups of beef stock

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Sprinkle the beef shanks all over with salt and pepper, then place them in a single layer in a roasting pan and brown in the oven for about 25 minutes.

While the beef browns in the oven, heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add the onions and saute over medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes until nicely soft and a bit browned. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Then add the lemon zest, balsamic vinegar, sugar, tomatoes, and raisins.

When the meat is browned, place it in the Dutch oven with the other ingredients. Add enough beef stock to cover the meat about three quarters of the way. Bring the whole thing to a nice simmer, then reduce heat to very low and cook for 2-3 hours, covered. The meat is done when it is very tender and easily pierced with a fork.

Serves 4-6.

Tip: You'll probably have a few cups of braising liquid leftover when you finish the shanks. Don't throw it away! Stick it in the freezer (well labeled, of course) and pull it out later for an instant sauce. This is especially great for a slow cooker meal - just stick chicken legs and braising liquid in the cooker, all still frozen in the morning, and enjoy a delicious meal at dinnertime.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pizza with Goat Cheese, Corn, and Roast Beef

Some leftover roast beef, some of last summer's corn (still so, so sweet) from the freezer, some goat cheese from Winter Fare...yum. Don't forget the garlic! Feel free to substitute steak or even pot roast for the meat here.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 - 3/4 cup diced cooked roast beef
1/2 cup corn kernels (frozen is fine)
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 oz. goat cheese
Salt and pepper

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

Spread the tomato sauce over the crust, then sprinkle with the diced beef and corn. Sprinkle the garlic over that, then dot with goat cheese. Add a small sprinkling of salt and pepper.

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

Serves 3-4.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Menu

We celebrated Valentine's Day yesterday, when we had a bit more time and leisure to work with. I made the following menu:

Roast Eye of Round with Garlic

Winter Squash Risotto

Green Beans with Shallot Mustard Sauce

And for dessert, Peach Compote with freshly whipped cream.

Roast Eye of Round (Beef) with Garlic

Our beef share came with an eye of round roast, a cut I had not previously encountered but that I understand to be quite a good quality roast. I prepared it yesterday via this technique, a recipe shared with me by my mother-in-law. It was delicious!

1 3-lb eye of round roast
3-4 cloves garlic, cut into slives
Salt and pepper

If the roast is frozen, thaw it completely. Let it sit on the counter for an hour or two before roasting, so it comes closer to room temperature. When you're ready to roast, preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Using a sharp, slender knife, cut slits into the meat and push slivers of garlic into them. Do this generously on all sides of the roast. Then sprinkle the roast generously on all sides with salt and pepper.

Place the roast in a roasting plan or casserole and put it in the oven (do not cover or add any liquid, just put it in as is). Immediately turn the heat down to 475. Roast for 21 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave the roast in the oven for another 2 1/2 hours; do not open the oven door during this time. The roast will come out cooked rare, tender and delicious.

You can serve the roast at room temperature, as for a buffet, or warm it back up before serving at the table.

Serves about 6.

Winter Squash Risotto

Use whatever type of winter squash you like for this. Depending on your taste, you can dial the sweetness up or down a bit by increasing or decreasing the amount of lemon juice.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium-large shallot, minced
2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
1 tsp dried sage
4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (preferably warmed)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup cooked mashed winter squash
1 tsp lemon juice (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a pressure cooker. Add the shallot and saute for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the rice and saute for another 1-2 minutes, until translucent. Stir in the sage. Add the stock, stir well, then put the cover on the cooker, lock, and bring to pressure. Cook on high pressure for 7 minutes, then release. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Serve hot.

Serves about 6.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Savory Pureed Lentil Soup

I like lentil soup and stew in many forms, but this one might just be my new favorite. With tomatoes, garlic, and Italian herbs, it is quite zesty, and pureeing makes it a little different from a standard lentil soup - in a good way.

1 Tbsp olive oil
10-12 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cups brown lentils
2 cups tomatoes and their liquid (canned, or thawed if frozen)
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
Water and/or chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the garlic and onion and saute over medium heat until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add the lentils, tomatoes, potato, and bay leaf to the pot, plus enough stock and/or water to cover by about an inch. Stir in the herbs. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

When the lentils are tender, remove the bay leaf, then puree the soup with an immersion blender (or in batches in a blender or food processor). You can leave it a little chunky if you like, or puree until fairly smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Serves about 6.

Split Pea Soup with Ham and Root Vegetables

Another great winter soup. Use whatever root vegetables you like. Carrots are nice for color and sweetness, but turnips, rutabaga, potatoes, parsnips, etc. would all work here. Use ham stock if you have it, otherwise chicken or vegetable.

2 cups dry split peas
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, in rounds
1 small-medium celeriac root, peeled and cubed
Water and/or stock
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard
2 cups cubed cooked ham
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the split peas, bay leaf, and vegetables in a soup pot and cover generously with water. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and simmer for about an hour, until the peas are nice and soft. Stir in the mustard and mix well, then add the ham. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Serves about 6.

Variation: Cook the split peas first, with the bay leaf, for about an hour. Remove the bay leaf and puree the peas partially or fully. Then add the remaining ingredients and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pasta with Smoked Ham and Cheddar Sauce

Homemade macaroni and cheese, dressed up a little with some top quality ham (yes, I've still got some of that awesome Christmas ham from Hager's in the freezer!). Local meat, local cheese, local milk. A good quality whole wheat pasta works well here.

3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk (room temperature is best)
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar
1 lb cut pasta (penne rigate is good)
2-3 cups cooked cubed or shredded smoked ham

Start by making a classic white sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan or deep skillet, then stir in the flour. Keeping the heat very low, whisk it constantly as it browns and thickens, bubbling. Slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time, over low heat. Whisk constantly until the sauce thickens a bit, then raise the heat to medium until the sauce reaches a simmer. Turn the heat down again at that point and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently (you can switch to a spoon for this).

While the white sauce cooks, boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water.

After the sauce has simmered for its 10 minutes, remove it from the heat and stir in the cheese, a handful or so at a time, until it melts. Stir in the ham.

When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Pour the sauce over it and stir to coat evenly. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Garlicky Spinach and Chorizo Pizza

We got some spinach at Winter Fare (yay, fresh greens!), and I've had some chorizo from Hager Brothers Farm in the freezer waiting for a good recipe. You can also get chorizo from Not Your Ordinary Farm in Guilford, VT - often available at the Greenfield Farmers Coop.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
1/3 lb chorizo
3-4 oz shredded mozzarella
1/4 lb fresh spinach, stemmed and rinsed
6-8 cloves garlic, minced

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

Slice the chorizo into 1/4-inch rounds and fry until done. Drain off the excess oil.

Spread half the cheese over the pizza crust, then top with spinach (it will be generously covered). Spread the chorizo over the spinach, then sprinkle with garlic. Top with the remaining mozzarella.

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

Serves 3-5.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Creamy Celeriac-Potato Soup with Roasted Shallots

I picked up some celeriac and potatoes (among many, many other things) at Winter Fare this weekend, and the sleet and freezing rain just called out for soup.

For an extra touch, mince an additional shallot and fry until crisp, then use a bit on each bowl as a garnish.

1 1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 - 2 lbs celeriac, peeled and cubed
Vegetable stock and/or water
1 bay leaf
4 roasted shallots, peeled
1/4 cup dry sherry
3/4 cup whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the potatoes and celeriac in a soup pot and cover with stock and/or water. Add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the vegetables are nice and tender.

When the vegetables are tender, add the shallots and puree the soup with an immersion blender (or in batches in a blender or food processor, or with a food mill - then return to the pot) until nice and smooth. Stir in the sherry, then the milk, then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Serves about 6.

Variation: Use a head of roasted garlic in place of the shallots.

Roasted Shallots

I have an embarrassingly large stash of shallots in storage, many from our garden and some also from our late fall CSA. As you may have noticed if you read this blog regularly, I am developing an increasing infatuation with shallots. I just love their flavor. Here they are roasted with the same technique I use for garlic. While the shallots do retain their layers, they become very soft and richly flavored, and are well suited for pureeing. Also try them chopped on pizza or in pasta sauce.

Whole shallots, unpeeled - as many as you like
Olive oil

Remove extra paper from the outside of the shallots, but do not peel completely. Slice off the very top, just enough to expose a little of the inside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Arrange the shallots in a baking pan, tops up (you can prop them against each other if needed). Drizzle slightly with olive oil. Add about 1/4-inch of water to the bottom of the pan, and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Roast for about an hour, until very soft. Let cool, then peel.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Peach Compote

We froze a lot of sliced peaches last summer. I've used some of them for jam this winter, but mostly they've been sitting in the freezer. I pulled some out last night and made this delicious - and very easy - compote. No pastry crust to make, no cobbler dough or even crisp topping. Just sweet, spicy, peachy goodness. Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream for maximum enjoyment.

To make this into an elegant dish to serve at a dinner party, serve in wine glasses with alternating layers of compote and whipped cream (you'll need extra whipped cream to do this).

2 lbs sliced peaches (frozen is fine, but thaw if they're stuck together)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped with a little sugar

Place the peaches in a Dutch oven or braising pan and sprinkle with the sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. Cook over low heat until the peaches are cooked through and the juice is syrupy. Add the vanilla and stir gently.

Serve warm, topped with a dollop of whipped cream.

Serves 4-6.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Winter Fare Shopping List

Greenfield Winter Fare is coming right up, this Saturday Feb. 4! I'll be giving a workshop at 10:30:

10:30 am to 11:15 am, Room 82:
Freezing & Drying Summer’s Bounty for Winter Eating
Workshop leader: Meggin Thwing Eastman,
Come learn easy techniques to preserve the summer and fall harvest with a home dehydrator and chest freezer.Many fruits and vegetables can be dried or frozen with minimal advance preparation. Snack on home-dried peaches and apples all winter and top pizza with your own dried tomatoes. Freeze corn, peppers, berries, green beans, tomatoes, and other veggies, and enjoy their burst of nearly-fresh flavor in your cooking all through the cold months.

And I'll be shopping! Here's what on my list so far:

- onions
- potatoes
- carrots
- celeriac
- sweet potatoes
- salad greens
- cooking greens
- bacon
- hard red wheat

There will be lots more than that on offer, though, so I'm sure we'll leave with more than just these items.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sausage Stew with Chickpeas

This was my first use of Hager Brothers sausage, available at Hager's Farm Market on route 2 in Shelburne. It was good!

I served this over butternut polenta, which was an excellent combination. But you could also eat it straight, perhaps with cornbread on the side.

1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 medium-large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups tomatoes (canned or frozen) and their liquid (thawed if frozen)
2 bell peppers, diced (green or red, frozen is fine)
1 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
1 tsp dried sage
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the sausage in a Dutch oven or large pot, breaking it into chunks as it cooks. Pour off most of the fat, then add the garlic and onions and saute with the sausage for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, peppers, chickpeas, and sage and simmer for 10-30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves about 4 (4-6 if served with polenta).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Whole Wheat Cream Biscuits

This recipe is adapted slightly from one in The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. Even with half whole wheat flour, these biscuits are as tender and flaky as you could hope for - absolutely divine with roast chicken and gravy. (I also use the roast chicken recipe from this same cookbook; it is the easiest, simplest, and most reliable I have found.)

Whole wheat pastry flour is available from local farms including Uppingil Farm and Four Star Farms and can be ground from soft white wheat from the same sources. Look for it Saturday at Winter Fare or find it at Green Fields Market. I always use cream from Mapleline Farm in Hadley, available at Green Fields Market.

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
6 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the whole wheat pastry flour, the all purpose flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or two knives (or make quick work of it with a few pulses in a food processor). Add the cream and stir it in with a fork until just combined. Knead the dough a couple times in the bowl, then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Pat or roll the dough out to about 1/2-inch thick, then cut into biscuits (any shape you like).

Place the biscuits on a baking sheet (I use a baking stone) and bake for 17 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.

Makes 8-12 biscuits.