Friday, September 30, 2011

Pureed Potato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Continuing on the theme of red peppers and leeks... This is a beautifully colored soup with a sophisticated yet comforting flavor, perfect for a chilly fall day.

If you want to dress this up for company, there are a couple options. First, you can puree the roasted red peppers separately and then swirl them through each serving of soup. Second, you can substitute cream for the milk and again add it decoratively to each serving rather than mixing it in the pot.

2 Tbsp olive oil
4-5 medium leeks, thinly sliced
3 lbs potatoes, cubed (peel or not, your choice)
Water and/or stock (chicken or veggie)
1/2 lb roasted red peppers
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp minced fresh sage leaves
2 Tbsp dry sherry
Salt and pepper to taste
Up to 1 cup milk or cream

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the leeks and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the potatoes and enough water or stock to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer partially covered until tender, about 15 minutes.

When the potatoes are tender, add the roasted pepper to the pot, then puree with an immersion blender (or do it in batches in a blender or food processor, then return to the pot). Add the parsley, sage, and sherry, then add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in milk or cream until the soup reaches a consistency that you like. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Serves about 6.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Broiled Polenta with Peppers, Leeks, and Feta

Sweet peppers are in full swing in September and early October, the same time that leeks start to come in. Enjoy them here with feta and a bit of oregano. Use frying peppers (the longer, pointier ones) if you can get them; otherwise bells are fine.

3 cups water
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 cup polenta cornmeal
Olive oil
3/4 cup tomato sauce
4 medium leeks, in thin rounds
2 ripe frying peppers, diced
2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 oz. crumbled feta
3 oz. shredded mozzarella

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.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet. Add the leeks and peppers and saute for 5-7 minutes, until tender. Add the oregano, salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Preheat the broiler.

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 the leek and pepper mixture. Sprinkle with feta, then top with mozzarella.

Broil the polenta for 4-5 minutes, until the cheese begins to brown. Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rustic Plum Tart with Cornmeal Shortbread Crust

This easy tart takes no longer to make than a crisp with its simple pat-in-the-pan crust. Red or purple plums are best here from a visual perspective, but pick any that you like. At some point I'm going to try this with strawberries and rhubarb, which I think would be awesome with this crust. Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream if at all possible.

Crust
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg yolk
1-2 Tbsp cream or milk

Topping
6-8 medium plums, quartered (use more or less depending on size)
1 Tbsp sugar
A sprinkling of cinnamon
1 tsp butter, in slices

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9-10 inch tart pan or the bottom of a similar size pie pan.

To make the crust, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse for 10 seconds or so to combine. Add the egg yolk and process until the mixture has a sandy consistency. Add cream or milk, a little at a time, until the mixture just comes together and becomes workable. Press the dough into the buttered pan in a more-or-less even layer, going just slightly up the sides.

Cover the crust with the plums, crowding them in close. Sprinkle the plums with sugar and cinnamon and dot with butter.

Bake for 30-for minutes, until the crust is golden brown and no longer soft and the fruit has softened and become juicy.

Serve warm or room temperature, preferably topped with whipped cream.

Serves about 6.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Creamy Pasta with Fresh Corn and Bacon

Creamy, salty, crunchy. A delicious treat with some of the last fresh corn of the season. (You can, of course, make this out of season, especially if you have taken some of our wonderful local corn and frozen it.)

1 lb pasta
6-7 strip bacon
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 cups corn kernels
1 cup cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water. Drain when done.

While the pasta cooks, fry the bacon in a large skillet (or broil it and reserve 1 Tbsp of the fat) until nicely chewy - not too crisp. Let drain on paper towels, then slice cross-wise into thin strips. Pour off all but about 1 Tbsp of the bacon fat.

Saute the shallots in the bacon fat until translucent, about 2-3 minutes, then add the corn and saute another 1-2 minutes. Pour in the cream and let it bubble until it thickens a bit. If desired, you can partially puree a little of this. Add the sliced bacon, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the pasta and sauce together until everything is well coated. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Apple Bake-Off at the Greenfield Farmers Market This Saturday

The Greenfield Farmers Market is sponsoring an Apple Bake-Off this Saturday to celebrate the beginning of fall. See below for details. I will be one of the judges!

*Greenfield Farmers' Market Apple Bake-Off*

The Greenfield Farmers' Market is celebrating the first day of Fall with a 2011 Apple Bake-off. The event takes place at the farmers' market on Saturday September 24th with judging beginning at 10:45am. Everyone is encouraged to enter and share their favorite recipes. Baked entries
should be dropped off at the market manager booth by 10:30am to be officially entered in the contest. There will be prizes and the market will be collecting recipes from the participants to create a collection to share so please be sure to have your contact information and recipe with you upon entry. Any apple baked good made with local apples will be accepted; from apple turnovers to apple pie to apple cake, etc. Our fantastic judges will be Mayor Martin, Meggin Thwing Eastman from Happy Valley Locavore, and Jim Zaccara from Hope & Olive restaurant. They will be judging the pies based on presentation, taste and texture. Prizes will be awarded as follows: First place will receive a $25 gift certificate to Greenfield Farmers' Market, Second place will receive a $5 Gift Certificate and a Greenfield Farmers' Market T-shirt, Third place will receive a Greenfield Farmers' Market Chico bag.

The Greenfield Farmers' Market is held every Saturday from 8:00am-12:30pm on Court Square in downtown Greenfield, MA.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Greek Eggplant Feta Casserole

This is a Greeked up version of my Eggplant Parmesan Casserole, using feta, oregano, and lemon zest instead of the more typical Italian seasonings.

1/4 cup olive oil (3 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp)
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried lemon zest (or 1 tsp fresh)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or cayenne (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large eggplant, peeled, quartered, and cut in 1/4-inch slices
2 cups good quality tomato sauce
4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
3 oz. crumbled feta
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Set aside about 2 tsp of the minced garlic if you plan to use the breadcrumbs. Heat 3 Tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet, then sauté the remaining garlic and the onion for about 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Stir in the oregano, red pepper flakes or cayenne (if using), lemon zest, salt, and pepper and sauté for an additional 30 seconds or so. Add the eggplant to the skillet and sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender but not mushy, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat.

If you are using the breadcrumbs, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a small skillet. Add the remaining 2 tsp of minced garlic and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the breadcrumbs and sauté over high heat until they are crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

In the bottom of a 1 1/2- or 2-quart casserole dish, spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce. For the next layer, spread half of the eggplant mixture. Top the eggplant with all of the shredded mozzarella and feta. Spread the remaining eggplant mixture over the cheese. Press down gently on the eggplant to compact the casserole somewhat. Top the second layer of eggplant with the remaining 1 cup of the tomato sauce. Spread the breadcrumbs over the tomato sauce.

Bake the casserole for about 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Corn and Chanterelle Risotto

If you liked the Corn and Chanterelle Bisque I made earlier this summer, you should definitely try this risotto. My four-year-old, to my astonishment, ate five helpings of this, and my husband and I enjoyed it thoroughly as well. The chanterelles are particularly divine, but feel free to substitute other flavorful mushrooms. I pretty much always make risotto in my pressure cooker these days because it's so easy, but you can do it the old fashioned way as well.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1/4 lb chanterelles, chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 1/2 cups corn kernels
3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in the pressure cooker. Add the shallot and chanterelles and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the rice and saute over medium heat for a minute or two, until the grains turn translucent and start to toast a little bit. Add the corn and the stock and stir. Cover the pot, lock the lid, and turn the heat to high. Cook for 7 minutes from the time pressure is reached, then release pressure manually. Stir, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sweet and Savory Tomato Jam

Try this on sandwiches, as a condiment for pork, or with some soft cheese. This makes a small batch, but feel free to multiply it.

1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes (halved if large)
1 tsp calcium water (comes with Pomona's)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground sage
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp Pomona's Universal Pectin

Combine the tomatoes, calcium water, salt, lemon juice, and sage in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, mashing the tomatoes as they soften. Simmer for 10 minutes or so. If desired, partially puree the mixture.

Combine the sugar and pectin in a small bowl, then stir into the tomato mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring as you go, then remove from heat. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Makes about 1 cup.

Variations: 1) Instead of sage, add 1/4-1/2 tsp grated ginger root. 2) instead of or in addition to sage, add a couple bruised whole garlic cloves while the jam simmers; remove before pureeing or adding the sugar and pectin.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pasta with Roasted Eggplant Tomato Garlic Sauce

It's hard to go wrong with this combination, and as we start to head into fall, roasting becomes more appealing. This is great with some sausage tossed in; I recommend lamb sausage if you can find it (a few local farms do make it). Or cook some ground lamb and toss that in.

2 heads garlic, cloves peeled and left whole
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed (2-3 cups)
4 cups chopped seeded tomatoes
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 lb pasta
Crumbled feta for topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the garlic cloves, eggplant, and tomatoes in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then toss to coat well. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice.

While the vegetables roast, cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water. Drain, toss with a little olive oil, and set aside.

When the vegetables are nice and tender, mash or partially puree them into a sauce. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Toss with the pasta until well coated. Serve hot, topped with crumbled feta at the table if desired.

Serves 4-5.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Shiitake Fried Rice

Fried rice is an easy, forgiving dish that you can make with pretty much whatever veggies you have on hand. I often make it with a whole kaleidoscope of chopped produce. But sometimes I also enjoy a more focused version, like this one, which highlights the flavor and texture of shiitake mushrooms.

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, diced
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tsp minced ginger root
2 eggs, beaten (optional)
2-3 cups leftover cooked rice (cold or room temperature)
1/4 cup soy sauce or to taste
Salt to taste

Heat the canola oil in a wok or large skillet. Add the onion and shiitakes and stir fry over high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and continue stir frying until the mushrooms and onion are tender. Lower the heat the medium.

If you are using the eggs, make a well in the center of the veggies and pour the eggs in. Scramble the eggs, slowly stirring them into the vegetables as they cook. When they're done, turn off the heat. Add the rice and soy sauce and mix everything well. Taste and add salt if needed.

Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

County Fair

The Franklin County Fair is this weekend at the Fairgrounds in Greenfield. I'll be speaking on Saturday from 3-4 in the Roundhouse. The general topic is cooking with the foods that are in season and on display at the fair. Readers, I would love any suggestions or ideas you have within that. What you would find interesting? What do you think others would find interesting?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Vanilla Peach Jam

I've been freezing and drying peaches over the last week, and also made some jam (by special request from my four-year-old). I have made Ginger Peach Jam in the past but decided to try something a little different this time around. The vanilla flavor adds a lovely note to the peach.

You can make this with pectin or without. When I use pectin, I use Pomona's Universal Pectin. If you do this, follow the directions about how to add it (at the end, mixed in with the sugar).

6 cups sliced peaches (skin on is fine, ok to use frozen)
1 pod vanilla beans or 1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
Up to 1/4 cup lemon juice (optional)

If you're using frozen peaches, thaw them first.

Combine the peaches and vanilla pod or extract in a Dutch oven and simmer until peaches are very soft, stirring occasionally. Mash the peaches as you go. Remove the vanilla pod at the end. If desired, use an immersion blender to make the jam smoother, or skip it for a chunkier consistency. Stir in the sugar and simmer for a few minutes. Add lemon juice if desired (for flavor; even if canning it's not required). If you are not using pectin, you may wish to simmer the jam longer to thicken it further.

Can the jam, freeze, or refrigerate. (If you choose to freeze it, make sure there is plenty of headroom. If using glass jars, do not seal until frozen.)

Makes about 4 cups.