Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Year-Round and Winter Markets Still Open

I am waiting impatiently for it to be May, when the Greenfield Farmers Market will open again for the season. But in the meantime, we still have a number of local markets that are open year-round.

The North Amherst Farmers Market is open from 10-2 every Saturday and promises fresh veggies, milk, eggs, and more.

The Amherst Winter Market is still open, also Saturdays from 10-2.

The Northampton Winter Market is open through the end of April, Saturdays from 9-2 in the basement of Thorne's.

Also, don't forget about the Enterprise Farm Food Shed, which sells local, regional, and East Coast produce. It's open Tuesdays from 2-6 and Saturdays from 9-2.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pasta with Creamy Spinach-Garlic Sauce

This tastes rich but isn't - no cream in it. Instead, it starts with a roux and you add milk and pureed spinach for a rich, creamy, green sauce. Add sausage, ham, chicken, or beans for more of a main dish. Feel free to substitute other greens for the spinach.

1 lb dry pasta
3 Tbsp olive oil (1 + 2)
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb spinach, stemmed and rinsed
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
3/4 cup milk (whole is good, but use what you like)
1/2 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water. Prepare the sauce while you bring the water to a boil and cook the pasta.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and saute for about 3 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and saute, stirring frequently, until it is wilted but not mushy. Remove from heat. Puree the garlic-spinach mixture until very smooth, then set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low-medium and whisk in the flour. Continue whisking until smooth. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly to get rid of the lumps. Continue to whisk as it thickens to a creamy consistency. Turn off the heat, then whisk in the spinach mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and toss with a little olive oil, then add the sauce and stir to coat. Add cooked meat or beans at this point, if using.

Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pizza with Arugula, Blue Cheese, and Shallots

There don't seem to be that many blue cheeses available from Western Mass dairies, but there are several in Vermont producing a lovely array of cheeses, many of which are available at Green Fields Market. Local spinach, arugula, and salad greens are pretty consistently available now, too, thanks to local farmers making good use of unheated greenhouses. If you don't have a large stash of shallots like I do, substitute minced red onion or skip it altogether.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 large shallot, minced
1/4 lb arugula, coarsely chopped
2 oz. crumbled blue cheese
2-3 oz. shredded mozzarella

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

Spread the sauce over the crust, then sprinkle with minced shallot. Top with the raw chopped arugula, then spread the blue cheese over that. Top with mozzarella.

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

Serves 3-4.

Braised Lamb Shanks in Tomato Sherry Sauce

Spring seems to have gone back into retreat for a while, so it's still good weather for a nice hearty braise. The combination of flavors here does something pretty wonderful. Serve with mashed potatoes for full and proper enjoyment.

4 lamb shanks
Salt and pepper
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 cup peeled chopped tomatoes and their liquid (canned; or thawed if frozen)
1/2 cup dry sherry
Chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the shanks in a roasting pan and brown in the oven for 20 minutes.

While the shanks brown, heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add the garlic and onion and saute over medium heat for 6-8 minutes. Add the carrots and saute over low heat until the shanks are done. Add the browned shanks to the Dutch oven, then pour in the tomatoes, sherry, and enough stock to cover the meat about halfway. Add the bay leave and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low and simmer for 2-3 hours, until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.

When the meat is done, remove it from the Dutch oven and set aside temporarily. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Puree the cooking liquid (right in the pot with an immersion blender, or use a blender or food mill and then return it to the pot). Return the shanks to the pot with the sauce and keep on very low heat until ready to serve.

Serve hot, with mashed potatoes on the side, topped with sauce.

Serves about 4.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Garlic Pepper Grilled Steak

We celebrated the first truly balmy day of the year with a steak on the grill. Excellent!

2 1-lb grass-fed steaks (or equivalent)
1 head garlic, cloves peeled
2 Tbsp olive oil
Lots of freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the steaks, pat dry, and trim if desired.

In a mortar and pestle or mini food processor, mince/mash the garlic very fine (you can also do this with a knife but it's harder to turn it into paste). Add the olive oil and turn it into a paste.

Liberally sprinkle the steaks all over with salt and LOTS of freshly ground black pepper. Then spread the garlic mixture all over.

Grill over high heat for about 4 minutes a side (for medium rare).

Serves about 4.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pasta with Spinach Alfredo Sauce

Fresh local spinach from the coop! This makes a beautiful green sauce with a gentle flavor, and my leafy-green-eschewing three year old scarfed down several servings. I tossed in some diced cooked ham as well (still working through the Christmas leftovers, though it's not exactly a chore!), but chicken would also work well here, or for a vegetarian version, add some cannellini beans.

1/2 lb spinach, stemmed
1 lb dry pasta
Olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
2 cups diced cooked ham or chicken, or beans (optional)
2 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan

Steam the spinach for a minute or two until it is thoroughly wilted but not mushy. Puree until smooth, then set aside (you can do this in advance if you like).

Cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water with a little olive oil, then drain when done. Make the rest of the sauce while the pasta cooks.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then add the spinach puree and the ham, chicken, or beans (if using). Warm briefly over low heat, then turn off the burner.

Heat a medium bowl by filling it briefly with hot water. Beat the eggs in the warmed bowl, then add the cream and Parmesan and stir well.

When the pasta is done and drained, stir in the spinach mixture. Then stir in the cream mixture until everything is well coated. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Whole Grain Buttermilk Pancakes

It was a happy recent discovery to find that Mapleline Farm offers buttermilk in pint containers. Too many times in the past I found myself buying a quart to make some particular recipe, only to watch the rest of it go bad in the fridge. This time, my husband bought a pint in order to use 1/2 cup in a cake; the remaining 1 1/2 cups was just right for a batch of pancakes.

Use any type of frozen or fresh fruit you like in these, depending on the season and what you have on hand. Frozen or fresh blueberries are classic, and with good reason, but other options would be good, too. You can also substitute cornmeal or another type of flour (regular whole wheat, oat flour, buckwheat...) for up to half of the whole wheat pastry flour.

Local whole wheat pastry flour is available from Four Star Farms (sold at Green Fields Market) and Upinngil Farm (sold at the farm store, open year round).

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar (or honey or brown sugar)
1 egg
1 1/2-2 cups buttermilk
1-2 cups frozen blueberries (or other fruit of your choice)
Butter or oil for cooking
Maple syrup for topping
Applesauce for topping (optional)

Preheat your frying pan(s) by placing them on the stove and turning the burner on low while you put the batter together.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg, then stir in the buttermilk. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, then fold in the blueberries or other fruit.

Turn the heat under your frying pan(s) up to medium. Melt a little butter or heat a little oil, then ladle out the pancake batter. Cook for roughly 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through.

Serve topped with maple syrup and/or applesauce at the table.

Serves about 4.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Winter Minestrone

A tasty, hearty, warming soup made from frozen and stored ingredients. If you happen to have a Parmesan rind, toss it in to flavor the broth and remove before serving.

Olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cups chopped tomatoes and their liquid (frozen or canned)
3-4 cups cooked chickpeas
2 medium carrots, in thin rounds
1 red bell pepper, diced (frozen is fine)
Water or stock (chicken or veggie) as needed
1 cup dry elbow macaroni or similar pasta
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat some olive oil in a soup pot. Add the garlic and onion and saute over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, carrots, and pepper, and enough water or stock to generously cover. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the veggies are tender, about 10-15 minutes.

Add the pasta, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper. Return the soup to a boil, then simmer again until the pasta is tender, about 8-10 minutes. Serve hot.

Serves at least 6.

Variations: substitute other vegetables with whatever you have.

Greek Roasted Green Beans

Use fresh or frozen beans for this. If using frozen ones, thaw them first and drain off the excess water. In summer, make this with fresh beans and fresh herbs.

1 lb green beans, stemmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried lemon zest (or fresh if you have it)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the green beans with the other ingredients. Place in a roasting pan and roast for 20-25 minutes. Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sesame-Garlic Green Bean and Pepper Stir-Fry

Frozen vegetables will never you give you that perfect tender-crisp texture you can get with fresh ones, but they still work remarkably well in many contexts, including stir-fries. This one was particularly good. Serve this over rice.

3-4 Tbsp dark sesame oil (divided)
1 lb protein of your choice (chicken, beef, tofu, tempeh...)
1 large onion, sliced lengthwise
10-12 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 - 2 lbs green beans, in 1-inch lengths (thaw first if frozen)
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips (frozen is ok)
1/4 cup soy sauce (divided)
2 tsp corn starch
Salt to taste
Sesame seeds (optional)

If using meat, heat half the sesame oil in a wok or very large skillet, then cook the meat. When it is done, remove to a plate or bowl.

Add the remaining sesame oil to the pan, then garlic and onion. Cook over med-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Pour a small amount of the soy sauce into the pan to deglaze, then add the green beans and pepper and stir-fry until cooked through, 3-5 minutes.

Stir the corn starch into the remaining soy sauce, then add to the pan and stir well. Let it bubble for a minute or so to thicken, then remove the pan from the heat. Taste and add salt if needed.

If desired, sprinkle some sesame seeds over the whole dish or each serving at the table.

Serves 4-6.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sweet and Spicy Caribbean Black Bean, Corn, and Beef Stew

I make all my long-simmered dishes on the weekend. I can put them together while the little man naps, then they bubble quietly away for a few hours until dinnertime. This stew brought a nice blast of tropical flavor to a grey, wet March day. Every time I cook corn that I froze from last summer's crop, I am amazed at how incredibly sweet and flavorful it is. (Next year, I really need to freeze more of it.) Serve this over white rice, if you like, or accompanied by cornbread.

2 cups dry black beans
1 lb stew beef, cubed
2-3 tsp ground cumin (divided)
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour, fine cornmeal, or masa harina
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp canola oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, diced
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely minced
1/2 cup dark rum (optional but nice)
3 Tbsp honey
Beef stock and/or more water
2 cups corn kernels (frozen is fine)
1 Tbsp lime juice

Place the beans in a bowl and cover generously with boiling water. Let them soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Toss the cubed beef with 1 tsp ground cumin, the flour/cornmeal/masa harina, and some salt and pepper so that it is well coated.

Heat the canola oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the beef and brown over high heat, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and onion and reduce the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. Add a splash of water to deglaze the pan and stir well. Stir in the remaining cumin, the coriander, minced chipotle peppers, rum, and honey.

Drain and rinse the beans, then add them to the pot. Add beef stock and or water to cover everything in the pot. Turn up the heat until it bubbles nicely, then reduce to very low. Cover and simmer on very low heat for at least 1 1/2 hours and as long as 3 or 4.

Toward the end of the cooking time, add the corn. Stir in the lime juice just before serving. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve hot.

Serves about 6.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Green Beans with Shallots, Tarragon, and Olive Oil

With last year's hot, dry summer, the green beans in our garden produced like we've never seen before, and I froze 15 pounds of them. As it turns out, 15 pounds is quite a lot of green beans for a family of three. So we are slowly working our way through them, and green beans have definitely become my go-to vegetable side dish. Fortunately, they're delicious! And they are excellent with shallots, which I also have a rather large supply of, between our own harvest and what came with our fall CSA.

1 lb green beans, cut into 1-2" lengths
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
1/4 tsp dried tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste

Thaw the beans if they are frozen. You can do this in the fridge, on the counter, or in a loosely covered bowl in the microwave (3-4 minutes on high).

Steam the beans (or, if you thawed them in the microwave, put them back in for another two minutes or so).

While you thaw and cook the beans, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the shallots and cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Stir in the tarragon after a few minutes, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the sauce over the beans and toss to coat. Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011