Thursday, May 26, 2011

Creamy Asparagus Morel Sauce

Last weekend at the farmers market, Paul Lagreze had some morel mushrooms, which I have heard about but never had before. They were pricy by the pound, but they're light and, as a true wild mushroom, they are not that often seen by those of us who don't know where to find them ourselves. As I was buying them, someone asked Paul how to cook them, and he suggested sauteing in butter then making a cream sauce. Here's my take on that recommendation. Mushrooms and asparagus go together like they were made for each other. If you don't have green garlic, substitute ramps or shallots or a clove or two of mature garlic. And if you don't have morels, feel free to substitute any other flavorful mushrooms you can find.

Serve this over pasta or polenta or, if you like, over broiled chicken.

3 Tbsp butter (1 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp)
1 stalk green garlic, minced
1/4 lb morels, diced
1 1/2 lbs asparagus, tough ends snapped off, sliced in rounds
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk (ideally whole)

Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a large skillet. When it foams, add the garlic and saute for about a minute. Add the morels and saute for another 1-2 minutes, then add the asparagus. Saute for another 3-4 minutes, or until the asparagus is bright green and tender but not too soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter. Whisk in the flour, stirring constantly as it forms a paste and turns light brown in color. Slowly whisk in the milk, making sure to eliminate any lumps. Heat the milk until it just barely begins to simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (5-10 minutes). Turn off the heat and stir in the vegetables.

Makes enough to serve 4-6 over pasta or polenta.

1. Keep the asparagus in whole stalks and steam in separately until tender-crisp. Serve the sauce over the asparagus.
2. Instead of making a roux-based white sauce with milk, just stir cream into the vegetables.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Buttermilk Blue Cheese Pasta with Arugula

There are several options for local blue cheeses - pick something moderately crumbly and flavorful but not extremely pungent (or just pick whatever you like best!). It pairs well with arugula's peppery flavor. If you want to give this dish more heft, toss in some cooked chicken or beans.

1 lb pasta of your choice
1 cup buttermilk
3-4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 lb arugula, washed and chopped
1 1/2 cups walnut pieces, lightly toasted

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. When done, drain and toss with a little canola oil.

While the pasta cooks, combine the buttermilk and blue cheese in the blender. Or, if you prefer, mash the cheese into the buttermilk with a fork for a chunkier consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When the pasta is done, immediately toss it with the arugula in a large bowl. The arugula should wilt partially to completely. Pour in the buttermilk sauce. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.

Serve hot, passing toasted walnuts at the table for topping.

Serves 4-6.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Asparagus Chorizo Pizza

Asparagus and chorizo have a real affinity for each other.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
4 oz. shredded mozzarella
1 1/2 cups sliced asparagus (1/8-1/4 inch rounds)
1/2 lb cooked chorized (sliced or crumbled)
1 shallot, minced
1 Tbsp minced fresh sage

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

Spread about two-third of the mozzarella over the crust. Spread the asparagus and chorizo over the cheese, then sprinkle with minced shallot and sage. Top with the remaining cheese.

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

Serves 3-4.

Variation: Toss some goat cheese on top of this or, if you have it, Manchego.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tortilla Pie with Spinach, Chicken, and Black Beans

Here's a nice hearty baked dish for these dismal cold grey days we've been having. A great use for leftover chicken. This recipe makes two pies, but feel free to halve it.

Olive oil
10-12 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium onions, diced
2 Tbsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp chili powder, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 cups cooked black beans
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1/2 lb spinach, washed, stemmed and coarsely chopped
4 10-inch tortillas (flour or corn as you like)
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil two large pie plates or 10-inch oven-proof skillets.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Add the garlic and onions and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper and mix well. Add the beans and chicken and heat through. Add the spinach and saute until wilted. Drain off extra liquid, either using a colander or by tipping the pan and sucking it out with a baster.

Place one tortilla in the bottom of each pan. The edges will fold up a little around the edges of the pan. Spread one quarter of the cheese over each tortilla, then add a quarter of the spinach mixture to each. Top with another tortilla, then the remaining filling. Spread the remaining cheese on top.

Bake the pies for about 15 minutes, until the tortilla crust is a bit crisp and the cheese begins to brown.

Serves 6-8.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Local Feast Cooking Classes

If you enjoy my recipes but would like a little more on cooking technique for all these great local ingredients, check out Molly Merritt's Local Feast Cooking Classes. Molly is based in Northampton and offers monthly cooking classes focused on in-season local ingredients. Classes meet the third Saturday of each month from 2-5pm. Sign up for a single class or get a discount for two or more. See the website for details.

Pizza with Chorizo and Chard

Along with spinach and arugula, I spotted bunches of Swiss chard at the market this weekend and scooped one up for variety. Feel free to substitute other greens here. Chorizo is a spicy Spanish sausage, available from several of our local pork farmers.

1 14-inch pizza crust
Olive oil
1/2 lb chorizo
1/2 lb Swiss chard, coarsely chopped (stems optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup tomato sauce
3-4 oz. shredded mozzarella

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

Cook the chorizo in a skillet over high heat: either remove casings first and crumble as you brown it, or cook whole links and slice afterwards. When the chorizo is done, remove it from the pan and pour off most of the fat. Add the chard to the pan and saute until wilted, adding salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

Spread the tomato sauce over the crust, then top with the chard and chorizo. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until crust is done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Barley with Ramps, Arugula, and Goat Cheese

Hulled barley is available from Four Star Farms; you can usually get it at Green Fields Market. You can also opt to use pearl barley for this dish; it will cook faster and is not quite as chewy in texture.

Serve this as a side dish or, if you like, add cooked beans and some toasted nuts for a heartier main dish.

1 1/2 cups hulled barley
4 1/2 cups water or stock (chicken or vegetable)
About 10 ramps (1 bunch)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 lb arugula, washed and chopped
1 Tbsp minced fresh sage
Salt and pepper to taste
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
Toasted pine nuts for topping (optional)

Place the barley and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender, about an hour (for pearl barley, more like 25-30 minutes).

While the barley cooks, slice the root ends off the ramps and wash them well. Thinly slice the whites and stems, then cut the leaves cross-wise into ribbons.

Heat the olive oil in a very large skillet or Dutch oven. Add the ramps and saute for about 1 minute. Add the arugula and saute until wilted. Stir in the sage and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.

When the barley is done, mix it together with the vegetables and the goat cheese. With the other ingredients hot, the goat cheese should melt and spread so that it coats everything. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve hot, cold, or room temperature, topped with toasted pine nuts if desired.

Serves about 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side dish.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sesame-Garlic Stir-Fry with Beef and Greens

Apart from asparagus, greens are about the most plentiful kind of local vegetable at this time of year. Fortunately, like asparagus, they are good in many different types of dishes - including stir-fries. I used a combination of spinach and mustard greens for this, but you can use whatever greens you like. Serve this over rice.

1 lb not-too-fancy steak (like London broil or top round)
1/4 cup soy sauce, or more to taste
2 Tbsp dark sesame oil (1 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp)
10-12 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, sliced lengthwise
1/2 lb greens, washed and stemmed if needed (chop or not, as desired)
1 Tbsp corn start
Salt to taste
Hot sauce (optional)

Slice the steak against the grain, about 1/4-inch thick, with slices about 2 inches long. Place it in a bowl, add 1/4 cup soy sauce, and toss to coat. Let stand for 5-10 minutes (more if you have time).

Heat 1 Tbsp of sesame oil in a wok or very large skillet. Scoop the steak out of its bowl, leaving excess liquid behind, and cook over high heat until it reaches your desired level of doneness. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of sesame oil to the wok or skillet, then add the garlic and onion. Stir fry over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes, then add the greens (you may have to do this in batches). Cook the greens until wilted, then add the steak back in and remove the pan from the heat.

Mix the corn start into the soy sauce remaining from marinating the beef, then pour it into the pan. Return the pan to the heat, briefly, until the sauce thickens. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Serve hot, over rice. If desired, add hot sauce at the table.

Serves about 4.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Asparagus-Ramp Bread Pudding with Goat Cheese and Rosemary

After making last week's Asparagus-Shiitake Bread Pudding, I've been thinking of ways to further adapt the recipe to make it faster to assemble. Here I've cut the assembly time almost in half, to about 30 minuets (it needs another 40 minutes in the oven) and made some changes to the ingredients for a fairly different flavor profile as well. To save yourself some prep time, buy the bread 1-2 days ahead and let it dry out a little.

With ramp season coming to an end, you could take this technique and use it with the ingredients in the other recipe.

1 1-lb loaf white bread (French or Italian work well), preferably a bit stale
3 cups milk
About 10 ramps (1 bunch)
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lbs asparagus, tough ends snapped off, in 1/2-inch rounds
Salt and pepper
2-3 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
6 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter or oil two 8x8-inch pans or one 9x13-inch pan.

Slice the bread about 1-inch thick, then tear into chunks. Place them in a large bowl. Heat the milk to steaming, then pour over the bread and let stand.

Slice the roots off the ramps and remove any loose outer layers. Thinly slice the white part and the stems, then finely chop the leaves, keeping them separate from the whites and stems.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the asparagus and the ramp whites and stems. Season with salt and plenty of pepper. Saute over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until the asparagus turns bright green and is slightly tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

Turn the bread a bit in the bowl to make sure all of it soaks up milk. Then add in the asparagus and ramps, the chopped ramp leaves and rosemary, and the crumbled goat cheese.

Beat the eggs in a bowl with 1 tsp salt. Pour the eggs into the bowl with the bread and other ingredients and mix well so that everything is coated (trying not to turn the bread to mush while you do so).

Press the mixture into the prepared pan(s). Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden and a bit puffy.

Serve hot or warm. Serves 6-8.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

It's Not Too Late for a CSA Share

If you've been thinking about signing up for a CSA share this year, it's not too late. Many farms still have shares available. CISA has a convenient list of Local Hero CSA farms here. They are listed by county and include descriptions of the farm and typical share contents, pickup locations, and how to get in touch with the farm.

In addition to the meat CSA offered by Bostrom Farm of Greenfield, CISA also lists a few others in the Valley.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Polenta with Creamy Tomato Sauce, Ramps, and Beef

This is a perfect application for leftover steak or roast beef. If you'd rather start from scratch, you could also use stew beef, but in that case be sure to brown it first and then allow at least an hour for simmering. Use a fairly plain tomato sauce here.

The ramps are really nice here, but in seasons you could substitute green garlic or shallots and some greens.

4 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups polenta cornmeal

1 Tbsp olive oil
10-12 ramps (about 1 bunch), roots sliced off, thinly sliced (green tops too)
3 cups tomato sauce
1/2 - 1 lb cooked steak or roast beef, diced or thinly sliced
1/2 cup cream (optional but really good)
Salt and pepper to taste

If you're using standard polenta, start it cooking before you put the sauce together. If you're using instant you can do it at the end.

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan and add the salt, then slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce heat to a simmer and switch to a spoon, stirring to keep the polenta from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Use the pan lid defensively, as bubbling polenta can spit and give a nasty burn. Simmer, stirring frequently, until nice and thick.

To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add the ramps and saute until the greens wilt. Add the beef and pour in the tomato sauce. Simmer until the polenta is done or you are otherwise happy with it. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream if using. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Spoon the polenta into bowls and top generously with sauce.

Serves about 6.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Creamy Arugula Sauce with Ramps and Bacon

Ramps, bacon, and arugula are a winning combination in many different forms. Here the arugula is pureed (along with the leafy tops of the ramps) and stirred into creamy sauce perfect for topping pasta or polenta. The bits of ramps and bacon add nice little nuggets of flavor as you eat. If you prefer not to use cream, you can make a roux with butter and flour and add milk instead.

10-12 ramps (about 1 bunch)
6-8 strips bacon
1/2 lb arugula, washed
1/2 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the root ends off the ramps (as you would do for leeks or scallions). Rinse well to remove all dirt, and pull off any loose or ragged outer layers. Cut of the leafy tops, chop coarsely, and set aside. Slice the white parts and remaining stems into round about 1/8-inch thick. Set aside, separate from the tops.

Place the bacon in a single layer in a large skillet and fry over medium heat until they reach your desired level of doneness (for this dish, I like them a little short of crispy). Drain on paper towels. Pour off most of the fat from the skillet, then add the slice whites and stems of the ramps. Saute for about 30 seconds, then remove from the pan and set aside. Add the arugula and the ramp tops and saute over high heat, stirring frequently, until wilted.

Puree the cooked arugula and ramp tops in a food processor, then place them in a saucepan over low heat. Add the cream and stir to combine well. Warm through, then turn off the heat. Stir in the sauteed ramps and bacon and add salt and pepper to taste. Thin with water if desired (if you're making pasta, a little pasta cooking water is perfect for this).

Makes enough to serve with 1 lb pasta.

Variation: Add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan to the sauce at the end.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Beef/Pork CSA from Bostrom Farm

Bostrom Farm in Greenfield is offering a summer meat CSA. A full share consists of 4 20-lb boxes of either beef, pork, or a combination, to be picked up the second Saturday of each month at the Greenfield Farmers Market. Half shares are also available. A full share (80 lbs total) costs $560 and a half share (40 lbs) costs $280. Contact Kyle Bostrom for details: KLBostrom [at] comcast [dot] net or 413-772-3732.

Mark Bittman on Asparagus

In a recent piece in the New York Times, Mark Bittman offers a "flow chart" for preparing asparagus: roasted, steamed, poached, etc. with a variety of different flavors. Check it out for even more inspiration beyond what you find here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Savory Asparagus-Shiitake Bread Pudding

This recipe, perfect for the chillier days of spring, is adapted from one in Deborah Madison's Local Flavors. I didn't have the mushrooms, the herbs, or the cheese that she called for, so I used what I had and it came out beautifully. I kept the method the same--be warned that, while not difficult, it is a bit elaborate. I think it could be simplified considerably, and am planning to experiment a bit with that in the coming weeks. This works well for dinner, but would also make a nice brunch centerpiece.

As the season goes on a bit, use green garlic and spring onion in place of the garlic and shallot, and vary the herbs with what's available and sounds tasty. Likewise, while I used Dutch Gold (Edam) cheese, this would work well with cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, or goat cheese.

4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
3 cups milk
1 1-lb loaf white bread (Italian style is good), preferably stale
1 1/2 lbs asparagus, tough ends snapped off, and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
2 Tbsp butter
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 lb shiitakes, stemmed and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
4 large eggs
1/2 cup chopped sorrel
1/2 cup snipped chives
2 cups Dutch Gold (Edam) cheese, shredded

1. Butter two 8x8-inch pans or one 9x13-inch pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine the garlic and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let steep until ready to use.

3. Cut the bread into thick slices. If not stale, toast lightly in the oven. Break into chunks, place it in a large bowl, then strain the milk over it and let it soak.

4. Place about 1 inch of water in a Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and simmer about 3 minutes, until bright green. Remove from the pot and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.

5. Melt the butter in skillet. Add the shallot and saute over medium-high heat for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms and saute until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

6. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the sorrel, chives, 1 tsp salt, and pepper to taste.

7. Add the asparagus, mushrooms, egg mixture, and about two-third of the cheese to the bowl with the bread and mix thoroughly (trying not to turn the bread to mush while you do so). Spread this mixture into the prepared pan(s) and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until nice and golden. Serve hot.

Serves about 6.