Friday, October 25, 2013

Pureed Lentil Soup with Roasted Red Peppers and Fennel

This is a warming, hearty soup, and the flavor of the roasted red peppers really comes through in every bite. If you want a version that's less brown, try red lentils (they also cook faster, but don't have quite the same comforting heartiness of their brown cousins).

2 cups brown lentils
7-8 cups beef stock and/or water
Olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, cored and chopped
5-6 ounces roasted red peppers, chopped (~3 medium peppers)
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Place the lentils in a soup pot with 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.

While the lentils cook, heat a little olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the garlic, onion, and fennel, and saute over medium heat, stirring frequently, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted roasted red pepper and set aside.

When the lentils are tender, stir in the vegetable mixture and the red wine vinegar. Puree using an immersion blender or carefully do it in batches in a regular blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4-6.

Variation: Substitute red lentils, chicken or vegetable stock, and white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar for a lighter texture and flavor.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Drying Apples and Asian Pears

I love drying fruit at home - it's easy, and the flavor is like nothing you've ever tasted in dried fruit from the store.

Our little Asian pear tree, planted a few years ago, produced its first harvest of any size this year. The pears are delicious fresh, but we had a few more than we could eat before they would start to get soft and lose their flavor, so I wanted to try drying them. To get a full dehydrator load, I added some apples - they can be prepared the same way and take roughly the same amount of drying time (the apples dried slightly faster than the pears).

If you've never had an Asian pear, they look a bit like apples - rounder than the classic European pear we mostly see around here - and they are crisp rather than soft. The skin is edible but usually a bit tough, so it's best to peel them for eating.

For both apples and Asian pears, the way to prepare them for drying is to peel, core and slice to about 1/4-inch thick. The easiest way I have found to do this is using an apple machine - you can find these at many stores with kitchen supplies (around here, Wilson's and also the Farmers Coop, among others) - that peels, slices, and cores all at once.

Spread the fruit out in a single layer on the dryer trays and dry for 6-8 hours (maybe slightly longer for the pears), until the fruit is completely dry but still pliable.

Orzo with Leeks

Many types of leeks are quite cold hardy, and they linger happily in the garden after many other things are done. Mine have fattened up nicely, begging to have their delectable flavor added to all sorts of all dishes. This one is a simple side that showcases the flavor of the leeks. The parsley and lemon juice are a nice addition but this is quite excellent with just the leeks and orzo.

 8 oz dry orzo
Olive oil
2 fat leeks, well chopped
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1/2 - 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)

Cook the orzo in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente, then drain and toss with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking.

While the orzo cooks, heat a little olive oil in a skillet and saute the leeks over medium high heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir the leeks into the orzo, then add salt and pepper to taste along with the parsley and lemon juice if using. Serve warm.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

Maple Baked Squash Halves

This is a classic New England preparation of winter squash. Everyone gets to scoop squash flesh out of their own half, which makes for an attractive presentation as well as fun for kids.

2 or more 'personal sized' winter squashes - delicata, acorn, buttercup, etc
Canola oil
1/2 tsp maple syrup per squash half (the darker grade the better)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the squashes in half vertically and scoop out the seeds. Place the halves in a baking pan, cut side up. Drizzle each one with 1/2 tsp maple syrup, then spray or brush lightly with a little canola oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

Ready to bake
Bake the squash for 40-50 minutes, until the flesh is tender when pierced with a fork.  Serve hot, giving eat diner 1-2 halves.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pizza with Roasted Red Peppers, Goat Cheese, and Fresh Arugula

I borrowed a trick learned from the chefs at Mag Pie and tossed fresh arugula on here after baking - delicious, and a perfect contrast to the roasted peppers and goat cheese.

1 14-inch pizza crust
Olive oil
3-4 ounces shredded mozzarella
2 ounces roasted red peppers, sliced
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 ounces goat cheese
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh arugula (raw)

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

Sprinkle the mozzarella over the pizza crust, then add the sliced roasted red peppers. Sprinkle with shallots, then dot with goat cheese. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is done and cheese begins to brown. Upon removing from the oven, sprinkle the arugula over the top of the pizza. Serve immediately.

Serves 3-4.

Brussels Sprouts in Butter

This preparation is so simple that calling it a recipe is probably a bit of an exaggeration. But it's good, and it's easy, and my six-year-old professes to like it (as does his dad). Brussels sprouts are available now - at the market and in my garden - but they will get better in a few weeks as the weather gets colder and they experience a few frosts.

1 pint Brussels sprouts (about 2 cups)
1 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim the ragged outer leaves off the sprouts and then cut them in half lengthwise, or into quarters if they are large.

Bring some water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Add a teaspoon or so of salt. Boil the sprouts for about 10 minutes, until easily pierced with a fork, then drain them.

Melt the butter (I do this in a bowl in the microwave), then toss the Brussels sprouts with it. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

Serves 2-4.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fire Roasted Eggplant

October is still eggplant season! Do up a few on the grill like this, maybe along with some red peppers, and make Fire Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Sauce, a smoky version of Roasted Eggplant Garlic Dip, or make up some Roasted Eggplant Puree with Olive Oil. The fire roasted flesh is also nice just chopped up and added to pasta sauce, a lamb stew or curry, or pizza.

You can use any number of eggplants, depending on how much you plan to use, and virtually any type. Fatter ones will take a bit longer to roast than the skinny kind.

Wash eggplants and pierce in several places with a sharp knife. Leave the calyxes on.  Get the grill going nice and hot and roast the eggplants, turning once or twice, until black all over and very soft.

Remove blackened eggplants from the grill and let them cool.  When cool enough to handle, cut off the calyx end and slice open. Scoop out the flesh and use however you like.