Saturday, June 29, 2013

Freezing Sour Cherries

Got the first local cherries of the season at this morning's farmers market.  Ben Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farms told me that they would have sour cherries for probably two more weeks, and also about two weeks of sweet cherries, starting next week.  You have to get there early - they sell out!  Sour cherries (aka tart cherries or pie cherries) can be eaten fresh but really where they shine is in pie and preserves.  So each year I try to get some into the freezer so we can have our cherry pie at Thanksgiving, plus a few other times if at all possible.

To freeze cherries, just wash, stem, and pit.  Drain off an excess juice, then pack them into freezer bags (1 quart size is good).

An inexpensive cherry pitter is very helpful for the job.  I picked one up a few years ago and have been grateful for it each year since. Pit cherries in a nice deep bowl, as they tend to spatter and the dark ones stain.

Plan on two quarts of fresh cherries yielding around 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 quarts of pitted cherries, well packed - just about the right amount for a pie.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Strawberry Balsamic Pizza with Arugula, Feta, and Basil

Paired with salty and tangy ingredients, strawberries do savory as well as sweet.  Substitute goat cheese for the feta if you like.

1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 14-inch pizza crust (whole wheat is good here)
Olive oil
2-3 oz shredded mozzarella
1 1/2 cups chopped arugula
3 oz crumbled feta
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Combine the strawberries and vinegar in a bowl and toss to coat thoroughly. Toss a few more times while you prepare the rest of the pizza.

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

Spread the mozzarella over the oiled crust, then top with arugula.  Using your fingers or a slotted spoon, remove strawberries from the vinegar and scatter them over the pizza (discard any remaining vinegar or use it to make salad dressing). Top with feta and a grind or two of black pepper.

Bake the pizza for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is done and the cheese begins to brown.  When you remove it from the oven, top with the basil and serve.

Serves 3-4.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pizza with Zucchini, Scapes, and Feta

Picked up some of the first zucchini of the season at the farmers market this weekend!  As an added bonus, with the squash finely diced, my five-year-old surprised me by munching it all right down instead of picking it off.  Any type of summer squash, green or yellow or both, will do nicely here.

1 14-inch pizza crust
Olive oil
1/2 - 2/3 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup chopped scapes
1 1/2 - 2 cups finely diced zucchini or summer squash
3-4 oz crumbled feta
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup basil leaves cut into slender ribbons (chiffonade)

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

Spread the tomato sauce over the pizza crust, then scatter the scapes and squash over it.  Top with the feta and a fresh grind of pepper.  Bake the pizza for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is done and the cheese begins to brown.  When you take the pizza out of the oven, scatter the basil over the top.

Serves 3-4.

Barley with Scapes and Fresh Herbs

Barley has a slightly nutty flavor and pleasantly toothsome texture, and it makes a nice side dish with the addition of summer herbs.

Barley in the front, Grilled Summer Squash and Onions and Orzo with Scapes and Sage in the back

1 cup pearl barley
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Olive oil
1 cup chopped scapes
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the barley and stock in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the barley is tender and all the stock is absorbed (about 25-30 minutes).

While the barley cooks, heat a little olive oil in a small skillet and add the scapes.  Saute over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

When the barley is done, add the scapes and herbs and mix well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Slow Cooked Lamb Riblets with Cumin, Garlic, and Lemon

Balky Farm of Northfield has been offering lamb and goat riblets (like spare ribs, but smaller) on sale the last couple of farmers markets, so I bought some.  So glad I did!  Well seasoned and slow cooked, they are tender, succulent, and flavorful.    You could easily substitute goat for lamb here.

3 lbs lamb riblets
Salt and pepper
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
2 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Generously sprinkle the riblets all over with salt and pepper.  Combine the minced garlic, cumin, and lemon juice in a small bowl and mix to form a paste.  Smear this all over the riblets.  Place the seasoned riblets in your slow cooker and cook on Low for 8-10 hours.  Serve or follow the optional browning step (good but not at all necessary).

Optional: After slow cooking, place the meat on a baking sheet and quickly brown under the broiler (a couple minutes should do it).

Serves 4-6.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cheater's Chard and Chickpea Curry

The big cheat here is jarred curry sauce, turning this into a quick and easy meal that still uses a big load of fresh local veggies.  If you want to make it from scratch, minced a bunch of garlic and fresh ginger and add it after sauteing the onions, then add some garam masala and a bit of turmeric, and round it out with a little tomato paste.  Serve this over rice.

Canola oil
1 medium onion or a couple spring onions, diced
1 lb Swiss chard, chopped (1 large bunch)
3-4 cups cooked chickpeas
1 1/2-2 cups jarred Indian curry sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup chopped cashews, lightly toasted
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat some canola oil in a large skillet or other wide bottomed pan.  Add the onions and saute over medium heat until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the chard (you may need to do this in batches), stirring until nicely wilted.  Add the chickpeas and the sauce and let it simmer for 5 minutes or so.  Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.

Serve over rice, topped with cashews and cilantro at the table.

Serves 4-6.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Orzo with Scapes and Sage

The scapes are ready! I just went out to my garden a cut a whole bunch of these curly stalks - what would be the flower stalk of the garlic plant. Sauteed, they have a mild garlic flavor and a pleasant crunch.  They go well with lots of different herbs, just like regular garlic.  In this case, I paired it with some of the sage that is currently flourishing in my garden, but you could also use basil or parsley or dill.  Serve this as a side dish, maybe alongside grilled steak and asparagus.

Orzo with Scapes and Sage

1 cup dry orzo
Olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced scapes
1-2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the orzo in a salted pot of boiling water.  When it's done, drain and toss with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking.

While the orzo cooks, heat a little olive oil in a small skillet and add the scapes.  Saute over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until tender. They will retain a bit of a crunch.  Stir in the sage.

Combine the scape mixture with the drained orzo and mix well.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Serves 4-5.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Scallion and Cheddar Frittata with Dried Tomatoes

This frittata is loaded with scallions, which are just coming into season now, plus local eggs of course. Substitute spring onions if you like.  I also added dried tomatoes, a pantry staple in our house.  I still have lots left from the 2012 season.

6 eggs, beaten
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 bunch scallions, chopped (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup dried tomatoes, rehydrated in hot water and chopped
Hot sauce (optional)

Combine the eggs and cheddar in a medium bowl and stir well.  Add salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet.  Add the scallions and rehydrated tomatoes and saute until the scallions start to get tender, about 1-2 minutes.  Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and stir to combine, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook gently until the egg is mostly set.  Turn on the broiler while you do this.  When the egg is mostly set, pop the skillet under the broiler for about 2 minutes to finish cooking the top.

Serve hot or room temperature, with hot sauce if desired.

Serves 3-4.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tangy Shredded Beef and Shiitakes Over Noodles

I don't generally think of June as the prime season for pot roast, but it's good when you get a chilly, rainy weekend.  Then, you can use the leftovers to make this excellent, satisfying ragout.  Be sure to save some of the braising liquid.  You can use a different pot roast recipe than the two suggested, but these are both extra flavorful and work well with the shiitakes.

Canola oil
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 medium onion, sliced lengthwise (optional)
About 1 lb leftover Spicy Latin-Style Vinegar-Braised Beef or Asian Style Pot Roast, shredded with a fork
About 1 cup leftover braising liquid (or substitute beef stock)
1/2 lb egg noodles

Heat a little canola oil in a braising pan or other wide bottomed pan.  Saute the shiitakes and onions, if using, until tender, then add the shredded beef and braising liquid and simmer until sauce-y.

While you simmer the beef and mushrooms, cook the egg noodles in a pot of salted boiling water.  Drain and toss with a bit of canola oil.

Serve the beef and mushrooms over a bed of noodles, spooning a bit of extra sauce over the top if there is any.

Serves about 4.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Asparagus and White Bean Salad

Quickly blanched asparagus and white beans complement each other in texture and flavor.  Feel free to jazz this up with some chopped fresh herbs, too, if you like (try basil or dill). I got the idea of combining blanched asparagus and white beans in a salad from the New York Times, but the seasonings are my own.

1/4 lb asparagus, tough ends snapped off
Ice water
1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked white beans
2-3 Tbsp minced red onion
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar, or more to taste
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the asparagus thinly on the diagonal.  Have a medium bowl of ice water ready.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.  Salt, then add the asparagus and blanch for 1 minute.  Drain the asparagus immediately and put it in the bowl of ice water to cool it and stop the cooking.  Drain again once cool.

Combine the blanched asparagus with all other ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Serve cold or room temperature.

Serves about 4.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sesame Ginger Grilled Asparagus

Enjoy the asparagus while you can - we've got maybe two more weeks before it's done for the season.

This recipe would work for roasting, too, but who can think about roasting when its 95 degrees in the shade?

2 Tbsp grated ginger root
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 lb asparagus, tough ends snapped off

Combine the ginger, sesame oil, and soy sauce in a small bowl and mix well.

Place the asparagus in a wide, shallow bowl or baking pan and drizzle with the sesame-ginger mix, then toss until thoroughly coated.

Grill over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes, until the asparagus is tender.

Serves 4.