Sunday, December 6, 2015


I didn't notice them at first, but when the people ahead of me in line raved about the American persimmons for sale by Coyote Hill Farm at the farmers market, I decided to try them. I had had Asian persimmons when we lived in California but had never tried the native American ones. These were much smaller, maybe around 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

In general, I have to say I'm not convinced they were worth it. Each fruit had several large seeds in it, and while the flesh is very sweet, it's sticky and there isn't that much of it. That said, I know some people love persimmons, so if you find them and don't mind the fuss, give them a try.

After we ate a couple straight, I decided to try to separate the seeds from the pulp and do something with the pulp. It wasn't all that easy. I tried putting them through a food mill, but the seeds were large enough that they got in the way. I eventually ended up pulling the seeds out with my fingers and then putting the flesh through the mill to puree it. That worked reasonably well, but I wouldn't want to do it with a large quantity (I had a pint or so of fruits). This yield around 1/2 to 2/3 cup of puree - though it was really more the consistency of paste than puree.

Since the amount of puree I had wasn't large, I decided to mix it with some applesauce. I did about a 1:4 ratio of persimmon puree to applesauce. It was quite tasty, and turned the pale yellow applesauce a pleasant pale orange color. I think this might make nice fruit leather as well. You could certainly go heavier on the persimmon in the mix if you had enough.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Roasted Garlic Southwest Chicken Soup

Substantial, warming, and full of flavor. If you don't have roasted garlic on hand and don't feel like roasting some just to make this soup, go ahead and make the soup anyway. Substitute 6-8 cloves minced fresh garlic and add it with the onions.

Olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, diced (frozen is okay)
2-3 cups corn kernels (frozen is okay)
Chicken stock
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin, or to taste
1 head roasted garlic, cloves peeled and minced
1 lb cooked chicken, shredded or diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
Optional toppings: chopped pickled chili peppers, cilantro, sour cream

Heat a little olive oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes, until translucent. Add the pepper and corn,. Add the chili powder and cumin and cook for another minute. Add chicken stock to cover the vegetables. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and chicken, plus more stock if needed. The soup should be hearty, not too watery. Simmer another few minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Stir in the cheddar until it melts.

Serve hot. Add toppings at the table if desired.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Simple Roasted Brussels Sprouts

The preparation and seasoning of these sprouts is utterly simple, but they are packed with flavor. This might be my new favorite way to eat them. I topped mine with a sprinkle of fleur de sel before serving, just because I had some, but they don't need it.

1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed (large sprouts halved)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fancy salt for topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the sprouts in a bowl and drizzle generously with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread the sprout on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Roasted for 25-30 minutes, until nicely browned and crispy on the outside and tender when pierced with a fork. Serve hot, topped with a bit of fancy salt if desired.

Serves 3-4.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cherry Pie Filling from Frozen Cherries

I have always made cherry and berry pies with frozen fruit, not precooked, and they always come out runny. This year I decided I would try cooking the cherry filling ahead of time. It was a bit of extra work, but since I had time, it was totally worth it. This resulted the best cherry pie I have ever made.

3 lbs frozen sour cherries, pitted and thawed (retain the juice)
3/4 cup sugar (more if desired)
1/3 cup corn starch

Allow the cherries to thaw completely. Drain off the juice and reserve it.

In a Dutch oven, combine the cherry juice, sugar, and cornstarch. Cook over medium heat, stirring well, until the sugar and cornstarch are totally dissolved and the mixture reduces and thickens substantially. Stir in the cherries and remove from heat.

To make pie, fill pie shell with the mixture and top as desired; bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees followed by 40-50 more minutes at 350 degrees.

Makes enough for one relatively deep 9-inch pie.

Parmesan Thyme Roasted Cauliflower

I'm not usually a cauliflower person, but this is excellent. Roasting makes cauliflower deeply flavorful, and the Parmesan and thyme add additional savory layers. (Note that the cauliflower in the photo looks quite dark because I used purple cauliflower. If you use the white kind, it should be nicely browned in places but not dark.)

1 lb cauliflower, cut up
3 Tbsp walnut oil
Salt and pepper
2-3 Tbsp grated Parmesan
A sprinkling of dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the cauliflower in a bowl with the other ingredients and make sure it is well coated. Spread it out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork. Serve hot.

Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Grilled Scallions

Grilling in November - what? But here we are, it was over 70 today and the rest of the week is supposed to be beautiful as well. So, grilling. The biggest challenge was seeing the grill in the dark...

As for scallions, well, they are one of the few fresh vegetables left in the garden - though local shiitakes still seem to be available as well and are always excellent on the grill. In the spring I made grilled ramps and loved them so much that I had been meaning to try scallions. I finally got around to it. I served these with Romesco Sauce (which I have a stash of in the freezer), but pesto (which I also have a stash of) would also be great.

5-6 large scallions per person
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Romesco sauce, pesto, or other topping of your choice

Cut the roots of the scallions and trim the green part so they end up around 12 inches (shorter is okay if you have smaller scallions).

Spread the trimmed scallions in a single layer in a baking dish or large plate. Brush or spray all over with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill over medium-high heat for about 1 minute per side (check after 30 seconds if you have thin-ish scallions). When browned nicely in places and floppy, they are done.

Serve hot. Pass sauce at the table.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Roasted Chicken Legs with Cherry Tomatoes, Garlic, and Mushrooms

Since we picked all our remaining tomatoes before the freeze, we have quite a few ripening inside still. In fact, we suddenly had more cherry tomatoes ripe on the counter than we were going to be able to use in salads. They were perfect in this one pan oven roasted dinner, which has a Mediterranean flair.

2 lbs chicken legs or other bone-in cuts, skin on
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1 pint shiitakes or other mushrooms, cubed
1 head garlic (or more to taste), cloves separated and peeled
1 1/2 cups cooked chick peas or white beans
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper.

Combine cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, and beans in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spread the tomato mixture in the bottom of a large baking dish (10x14 inches) or a half sheet pan with a good rim on it. Place the chicken pieces on top of the veggies. Sprinkle all over with thyme.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is golden.

Serve pieces of chicken with a spoonful of juicy veggies.

Serves 4-6.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Creamy Corn Soup with Pureed Summer Squash

Here's a creamy, warming soup for fall that makes good use of summer produce that's still available. (Our summer squash is slowing down, but I still picked seven of them yesterday!) You can substitute zucchini for the summer squash in this recipe, but the result will not be quite as sweet, and the color may be a bit muddy.

Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 lbs summer squash, cubed or sliced
Chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Kernels from 6 ears of corn (about 3 cups)
1/2 - 3/4 cup cream, or to taste

Heat a bit of olive oil in a soup pot. Add the garlic and onion and saute over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the squash and enough stock to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the squash is very tender, about 10-15 minutes.

When the squash is tender, puree the soup using an immersion blender (or do it in batches in a regular blender, then return it to the pot). Add salt and pepper, then stir in the corn. Simmer for a few minutes, until the corn is tender. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Serves 4-6.

Roasted September Vegetables with Thyme and Red Wine Vinegar

This combination of vegetables goes well together with many different seasoning options. Here's another one, savory and tangy on the tongue. Substitute other mushrooms if you like.

1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed
2 sweet red peppers, in bite sized pieces
1-2 summer squash or zucchini, cubed
1/4 lb shiitake mushrooms, halved or sliced
1 medium onion, diced
Olive oil
2 tsp dried thyme (or 1 Tbsp fresh)
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle generously with olive oil, quickly tossing to coat the vegetables before it all soaks into the eggplant. Sprinkle with thyme, salt, and pepper, then drizzle with the red wine vinegar and toss again.

Spread the vegetables out on a rimmed baking sheet, preferable in a single layer. Roasted for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender.

Serves about 4.

Home Grown Hot Sauce

I had a pound of ripe red jalapenos that needed using. In the past I've pickled them (yum!), fire roasted them, and used them in salsa, but I had never tried making my own hot sauce. This came out pretty good. You can use whatever type of chilies you like; the heat of the sauce will be entirely dependent on the heat of the chilies you use. If a quart of hot sauce sounds like too much, or you have fewer chilies available, feel free to halve or even quarter the recipe.

1 lb ripe (red) jalapenos, stemmed and seeded
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup cider vinegar
2 medium-large garlic cloves
1 Tbsp salt

Combine all ingredients in the blender and blend at increasing speed until completely pureed. I have a pretty high powered blender and I found that after the pureeing process the hot sauce was pretty foamy from all the air that had been whipped into it. Just let it sit, stirring occasionally, until the foam settles. Store in sealed container (s) in the fridge or freezer. I used pint jars, putting 3 in the freezer for later and one in the fridge for now.

Foamy hot sauce after blending

Makes about 1 quart.

Roasted September Vegetables with Dill Yogurt Sauce

This recipe is perfect for this time of year, when the late summer vegetables are still going pretty strong but the weather has cooled down enough to make roasting appealing. This combination is deeply flavorful, and the dill yogurt sauce with a pinch of garlic gives it a Greek or Turkish flair.

1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed
2 sweet red peppers, in bit sized pieces
2-3 paste tomatoes, seeded and cubed
Olive oil

Yogurt Sauce
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 clove garlic, very finely minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh (or frozen) dill

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle generously with olive oil and quickly toss (the eggplant will absorb oil, so toss quickly after drizzling to spread it around before it soaks in too much). Sprinkle with salt and toss again.

Spread the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet, preferably in a single layer. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent burning and sticking.

While the vegetables roast, combine the yogurt, garlic, and dill and stir well. The yogurt will thin into a sauce.

Serve the vegetables topped with the yogurt sauce at the table.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Rosemary-Garlic Roasted Leg of Local Lamb

My husband adores lamb, so I bought a leg from Balky Farm (in Northfield) at the farmers market and roasted it for his recent birthday. Some good olives go well alongside this.

Ready to go in the oven

1 bone-in leg of lamb, 4-5 lbs
Salt and pepper
2 heads garlic, peeled
1/4 cup rosemary leaves
Olive oil

Season the lamb in advance if you can. At least an hour is good, and as much as a full day ahead of time brings welcome added flavor to the meat.

Using a sharp, thin-bladed knife, cut small slits into the meat all over it. Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper.

Mince the garlic and rosemary together, then combine with enough olive oil to make a paste. Smear this all over the lamb, working it into the slits as well as spreading it on the surface. Place the lamb in a roasting pan that just fits it. Let sit until ready to cook (on the counter is fine for an hour or so; otherwise in the fridge).

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roast the lamb for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 325. Roast for an additional 15 minutes, then begin testing the temperature. Check it in several places; you want it to be at least 130 degrees for medium rare. Keep in mind that a bone-in roast will take longer to cook near the bone than on the outside. Continue to cook if needed.

Let the lamb sit for 10-15 minutes before carving. Serve warm.

Freezing Dill

Fresh dill freezes beautifully and easily and the end product is of great quality. I like to keep some in my freezer all winter if I can. Some people like to freeze it in ice cube trays covered with water or olive oil; this works fine but I find that for dill it's not necessary and I can just pack it loosely in freezer bags. This technique also works great for parsley. (For basil and cilantro, I suggest the ice tray method.)

1. Start with good fresh dill. Weed out any shriveled or yellow bits.

2. Chop the dill leaves and tender stems pretty finely.

3. Pack into freezer bags. Don't stuff them. You want to fill smallish bags loosely, with the dill fairly flat and spread out. This is key to being able to shake some out or break off a bit when you want to cook with it.

Southwestern Rice and Bean Salad with Chorizo and Veggies

Cook up some rice and sausage ahead of time or use leftovers; this is a good dish for a hot night when you don't want to turn on the stove.

3-4 cups cold cooked brown rice
1 cup diced cooked chorizo
Kernels from 2 ears of corn (1-2 cups)
1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 - 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 large sweet red pepper, diced
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
Salt to taste
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 - 1 tsp chili powder
1-2 tsp lime juice (or to taste)

Combine rice, chorizo, corn, beans, scallions, cilantro, pepper, and cheddar in a large bowl and add salt to taste.

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, cumin, chili powder, and lime juice and mix well.

Stir the yogurt mixture into the rice mixture until everything is well coated.

Serve cold.

Serves about 6.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Pureed Summer Vegetable Soup with Basil and Italian Sausage

This was excellent, tasting thoroughly of summer in every spoonful. Feel free to skip the sausage for a lighter soup. You can be quite approximate with the quantity of each vegetable. You can substitute zucchini for the summer squash if you like, but a nice yellow summer squash combines with the corn and tomatoes to yield a lovely pale orange soup. (Hat tip to my sister Tara for this recipe idea!)

Olive oil
2 large shallots, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs summer squash, sliced
2-3 cups seeded chopped tomatoes
2 cups corn kernels
1 Parmesan rind (optional but nice if you happen to have one)
Chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb cooked Italian sausage, sliced into thin rounds or diced
1 - 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh basil

Heat a little olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add the shallots and garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes over medium heat. Add the squash and continue to saute over medium high heat for another 3-5 minutes, until the squash begins to soften. Add the tomatoes, corn, and Parmesan rind (if using), then add enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the veggies are tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove the Parmesan rind from the pot and puree the vegetable mixture using an immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the sausage and basil. Remove from heat and serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Asian Tomato Peach Barbecue Sauce

This sweet-tangy-savory sauce is adapted from a recipe in Put 'Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton, one of my favorite books for food preservation ideas. This recipe is suitable for canning (or freezing if you like).

To easily peel either peaches or tomatoes, dunk them in boiling water for 30 seconds or so then transfer to ice water. Once they are cool enough to handle,

To speed up your simmering time, one trick is to use frozen fruit and/or tomatoes - let them thaw and drain off the excess liquid before making the recipe.

3 lbs peaches, pitted and sliced (peeling optional)
3 lbs paste tomatoes, cored, peeled, and seeded
1 3/4 cup cider vinegar
2/3 cup soy sauce
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup grated or minced ginger root, or more to taste
1 3/4 cup brown sugar
3 star anise, tied up in cheesecloth or a tea bag

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and let simmer for an hour or so. Remove the start anise and puree the rest. If the consistency is good, can, freeze or refrigerate the result. If still too thin, continue to simmer until it reaches desired consistency (remembering that it will be thicker once cool than it is when hot).

To can, process using the hot water method. Process pint jars for 10 minutes or half-pint jars for 5 minutes.

Makes about 2 1/2 pints.

Eggplant Ricotta Bake

Chunks of roasted eggplant are baked in tomato sauce with ricotta and a topping of ground walnuts. Mix the basil in before baking or sprinkle it fresh over the top before serving.

2 medium Italian style eggplants, peeled and cubed
2 large shallots or a small onion, finely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 1/2 cups good quality tomato sauce
16 ounces good quality ricotta
1 cup walnut pieces, ground or minced
1 cup chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the eggplant cubes with the shallot and garlic in a 10x13-inch baking dish. Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. (Note that the eggplant will easily absorb all the oil; do not add more.) Bake for 20 minutes then remove from oven. Turn the temperature down to 350 degrees.

Pour the tomato sauce over the eggplant mixture and mix well. It should be well sauced but not too soupy. Dot spoonfuls of ricotta over the surface. Top with basil and walnuts if desired, or just walnuts with the basil reserved for fresh topping after baking.

Bake again for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot, optionally topping with fresh basil.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Crustless Quiche Muffins with Tomatoes, Feta, and Fresh Herbs

I made these for a recent brunch. By using muffin papers you can skip the crust without ruining your pans. Another benefit is that it's easy to make a variety of different kinds because you can put the fillings in the muffin cups and then add the eggs. This high summer version with fresh tomatoes and herbs was a hit. Feel free to halve the recipe if you're not feeding company. For the herbs, you can go heavy on the basil and/or parsley. If relying more on oregano or dill, use less.

Cooked quiche muffins
16 eggs
2 cups milk (whole is nice, but use whatever you like)
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1 large paste tomato or 2 smaller ones, finely diced
1 cup chopped fresh herbs
4 ounces crumbled feta

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place paper muffin cups into muffin tins or ramekins and oil them lightly if you have an oil sprayer. The recipe makes around 2 dozen quiche muffins.

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, then stir in the milk, salt, and pepper.

Place a tablespoon or so each of tomatoes, herbs, and feta in the bottom of each muffin cup. Using a ladle, pour egg mixture over, filling to about 1/4 inch from the top.

Fillings in the muffin cups, ready for egg mixture to be added
Bake the quiche muffins for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through.

Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.

Serves about 6.

Peanut Sauce

This isn't based on local ingredients, but it's a great condiment for noodles, vegetables, and even new potatoes.

1/3 - 1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar 
3 Tbsp peanut or canola oil 
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter (preferably natural)
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2-3 tsp chili paste 
Up to 1/4 cup water
Up to 1/4 cup sugar or honey (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add water as needed to reach desired consistency.

Makes enough to sauce 1 lb of noodles, 2 lbs of potatoes, or vegetables to serve 6.

Squash Noodles

Another squash for pasta nutrition boosting substitution. The squash has more of a slight crunch instead of chewiness, but it works well here. I served these with Peanut Sauce and we all loved it, even my skeptical seven-year-old. I think they would work well on their own with just the olive oil, salt, and pepper, or you could try tomato sauce, pesto, Alfredo sauce, or toss with some fresh herbs.

3 medium summer squash or zucchinis
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Use a vegetable peeler to cut the squash into long ribbons. Work your way around each squash lengthwise until you start to get to the seeds in the middle; discard the core. Toss the noodles in a colander with a sprinkle of salt and let sit for 15-20 minutes to release excess liquid.

After the squash has sat, press down gently to drain off the liquid it has released.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet. Add the drained squash. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Saute, stirring gently, for 2-3 minutes until just tender. Remove from heat and drain again if needed. Serve warm or room temperature.

Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Southwestern Grilled Vegetables

Any seasonal vegetables will work here, but I do recommend including a tomato and some onion for their flavors. As the tomatoes soften and cook, they will spread themselves over the rest of the vegetables, contributing to the seasoning. Peppers will be nice here when they're ready. I used summer squash and eggplant along with the tomato and onion.

8 cups mixed seasonal vegetables, cubed
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
A couple fresh limes, quartered (optional)

Toss the vegetables in a bowl. Combine the vinegar, oil, cumin, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and miss well. Drizzle over the vegetables and stir to coat. Let sit for up to 30 minutes if you have time.

Grill the vegetables in a grill basket. Start them over high heat, stirring every 5-7 minutes. After 10-15 minutes, reduce heat to low and continue to grill until tender, another 10-15 minutes. If you like, turn the heat back up for a few minutes at the end for additional browning.

Top the vegetables with cilantro and a drizzle of fresh lime juice at the table.

Serves about 4.

Creamy Roasted Summer Squash with Fennel, Shiitakes, and Artichokes

You can skip the artichoke hearts in this dish if you like - they're certainly not local - but they are a nice addition if you're in the mood for a treat. The rest of it blends together in a wonderful medley of rich, sweet, and nutty flavors, and a touch of melted cream cheese at the end ties it all together with a bit of tangy creaminess.

2 medium summer squashes, cubed or in rounds
1 pint shiitake mushroom tops, in large bite sized pieces
1 medium fennel bulb, in bite sized pieces
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed (optional)
Walnut oil (or substitute canola)
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp cream cheese, warmed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle with oil and add salt and pepper. Toss to coat thoroughly. Spread in a single layer (at least more or less) on a baking sheet. Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring once or twice, until vegetables are tender.

Return vegetables to mixing bowl and add the cream cheese in small dabs. Toss with the hot vegetables to distribute throughout.

Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Vietnamese Grilled Eggplant Skewers

I often use a grill basket for grilling veggies in chunks, but sometimes I use skewers to mix it up. It also saves me a bit of room on the grill. Eggplant worked well here, but you could use whatever vegetables you like. If you use bamboo skewers, be sure to soak them well ahead of time; I use these bendy stainless steel ones that hook together in a loop.

Nuoc Cham:
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chili paste
2 Tbsp lime juice (ideally fresh)
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt

2 medium Asian eggplants (the long skinny ones), in rounds or cubes (peeled or not as desired)
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 cup chopped herbs: Cilantro, Thai basil, mint, or a combination

Make the Nuoc Cham first so it has time for the flavors to blend while you prepare the skewers.

Toss the eggplant chunks with the canola oil and rice vinegar. Sprinkle liberally with salt and toss. They will soak up the marinade quickly. Thread them onto skewers.

Grill the eggplant over medium-high heat for about four minutes per side, turning the skewers once.

Serve the eggplant hot, topping with nuoc cham and sprinkling generously with the herbs.

Serves 2-4.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Chorizo and Squash Scramble

I was going to make a frittata but decided at the last minute that a scramble would be quicker and easier. I really liked the combination of flavors and textures here. We had leftover grilled chorizo from Hager's farm, which went in here nicely. I served this for dinner, but it would also work for brunch or lunch.

2 cups shredded summer squash or zucchini
4 ounces cooked chorizo, diced
10 large eggs, beaten
2 ounces cream cheese, in small cubes
1-2 ounces shredded sharp cheddar
Oil or butter for cooking
1 can black beans, drained
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the squash or zucchini in a strainer over the sink. Sprinkle with salt, mix, and let stand for 10-15 minutes to release excess liquid. Then squeeze out as much water as you can using your hands or a dish towel.

Combine the eggs, cream cheese, and cheddar in a bowl.

Heat a little oil or butter in a large skillet. Add the squash or zucchini and saute for 2 minutes or so. Then add the chorizo and beans. Continue to saute over medium heat until warmed through. Add the egg mixture and cook, scrambling, over low-medium heat until cooked through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4-5 as a main dish.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Greek Squash Fritters

You can make these with either summer squash or zucchini or a combination. The addition of feta and ground walnuts gives them enough protein to make a main dish. A bit of yogurt or sour cream on top is nice. I served these for dinner, but they could do for brunch as well.

2 lbs summer squash or zucchini, shredded
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup walnuts, ground or finely chopped
5-6 ounces crumbled feta
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
2 eggs, beaten
Olive oil
Plain yogurt or sour cream for topping

Place the shredded squash in a colander and sprinkle liberally with salt. Stir to mix the salt in, then let sit in the sink or over a bowl for 10-15 minutes to release excess liquid. Press out as much extra liquid as possible using your hands or a dish towel.

Place the drained squash in a large mixing bowl. Add the onion, walnuts, feta, oregano, parsley, and pepper and mix well. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture, then stir again to coat. Add the eggs and stir to coat again.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet or two. Drop spoonfuls of the squash mixture into the hot pan, flattening to no more than 1/2-inch thick. Cook over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes per side, then carefully flip and cook the other side. Keep cooked fritters warm on a covered plate or low oven.

Serve hot. Pass yogurt or sour cream at the table for topping.

Serves 4-6.

Mashed Summer Squash with Cheddar

This is a slightly different twist on the usual summer squash or zucchini preparations. We all liked it, including the kids. I served it with grilled chorizo alongside, and my seven-year-old swore that bites of the two dishes together was the absolute best way to consume them. If you like this, I think it's a theme that could be riffed on pretty extensively - I'm thinking of additions like chilies or bacon, or substitutions like goat cheese for variety.

5 lbs summer squash or zucchini (about 3-4 large ones), sliced
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 head garlic, minced, or 1/2 cup chopped scapes
Splash of water
4-5 ounces shredded sharp cheddar
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss the sliced squash in a colander with a sprinkling of salt all over, then let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Shake off the excess liquid; pat dry with a dish towel if you're feeling slightly more ambitious. You can skip this step if you like, or if you're in more of a hurry, but it will help make your end product a bit thicker.

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add the drained squash and the garlic or scapes. Saute over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add a splash of water to keep the garlic from sticking to the bottom. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 15-20 minutes, stirring periodically. You want the squash to be nice and tender. When it is done. remove from heat and either mash with a potato masher or puree with an immersion blender. Ideally you want to leave it slightly chunky. Stir in the shredded cheese until melted. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Squash Noodle Lasagna

This pasta-less lasagna substitutes thinly sliced summer squash or zucchini for the noodles, and it's delicious. The squash makes a surprisingly good textural substitute, in addition to tasting good and being more nutritious. My squash-avoiding seven-year-old scarfed it down not realizing what he was eating, and my skeptical husband admitted to being wholly won over.

Like most lasagna recipes, this is a bit of a project, best saved for a weekend. The squash slicing is easiest with a mandolin if you have one. Use good local ricotta if you can find it; I got a luscious hand dipped whole milk version from Maplebrook Farm (Vermont) at Green Fields Market.

4 medium summer squash or zucchinis (nice and straight if possible)
16 ounces ricotta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 large egg
1 lb ground beef
4 cups tomato sauce
1 cup chopped fresh basil (optional but good)
12 ounces shredded mozzarella

Start by slicing the squash or zucchini lengthwise to about 1/8-inch thick. Lay the slices out on dish towels and salt lightly on both sides. Let sit for 10 minutes or so, then blot dry with another dish towel. You want to remove some of their excess moisture to improve the texture in the lasagna and keep it from getting to soggy. Optionally, you can then bake the slices in a single layer for about 10 minutes at 400 to partially cook and dry them further; I tried this with some of my squash and found I couldn't tell the difference in the end product, so likely won't bother with it again in the future.

While the squash sits exuding moisture, stir together the ricotta, Parmesan, and egg in a small bowl. Set aside.

Brown the beef in a large saucepan or Dutch oven, salting it as you do so. Add the tomato sauce and fresh basil and set aside.

When the squash is ready, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 9x13-inch pan.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of squash, placing the slices next to each other as close as possible but not overlapping.

A layer of squash, partway through lasagna assembly
Spread a third of the ricotta mixture over the squash, then top with a third of the mozzarella. Repeat layers in this order (sauce, squash, ricotta, mozzarella) for two more layers. Cover the pan lightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes. Let sit for several minutes before serving.

Serves about 6.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Grilled Snow Peas with Shiitakes and Scallions

If you haven't tried snow or snap peas on the grill, you should - they're great, and they're quick. Here they are excellent with shiitakes and scallions grilled alongside in an Asian marinade. You'll need a grill basket for this recipe.

2 cups shiitake mushroom caps in bite-sized chunks
3 cups snow peas, stemmed
Up to 1 bunch scallions, cut into 1 1/2- 2-inch lengths
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat. Let marinate for up to an hour if you have time; even a few minutes is good.

Heat the grill and place the vegetables into the grill basket. Grill over high heat, stirring occasionally, for 6-10 minutes, until nicely browned in places. Serve hot.

Serves 2-4.

Greek Spinach Frittata

This savory frittata, full of flavor, is excellent for dinner as well as brunch or lunch. Use fresh oregano if you can get it, and of course scapes while they are in season. Substitute dried oregano and a couple cloves of garlic at other times of year. Bacon makes a nice accompaniment for this, but you won't miss it if you don't have it. Be sure to use an oven proof skillet for this.

4-5 ounces spinach, stemmed
8-10 eggs
2-3 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 - 1 tsp dried)
3 ounces feta
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped garlic scapes

Lightly steam the spinach, then chop well.

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the oregano, feta, and salt and pepper.

Preheat the broiler.

Heat the olive oil in an oven proof skillet (10 inches is a good size). You want a generous quantity of oil to prevent the frittata from sticking, so don't skimp. Add the scapes and saute over medium high heat for 1-2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and pour in the egg mixture. Make sure everything is well distributed in the pan, reduce heat to low-medium, and cook until the egg is well set around the edges.

Finish the frittata under the broiler. 3-5 minutes should be enough; check after 3 to see whether it is done in the middle. If you still have liquid egg, continue to broil, checking every minute or two for doneness. Serve warm or hot.

Serves about 4.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Drying Strawberries

Drying fruit at home is easy and rewarding, and the end product is invariably excellent. Among all the strawberries we put into the freezer at this time of year, we always make sure to dry a load or two as well. We enjoy them in our oatmeal all winter long. (Other good local fruit candidates for drying are peaches and apples and pears. Tomatoes are easy and good too, if you like "sun-dried" tomatoes.)

Wash and hull the strawberries and cut off any bad spots. Try to choose berries of approximately similar size, to the extent possible - this will help them dry more evenly. Cut small and medium berries in half lenthwise; larger specimens can be cut into thirds or even quarters if very big.

Spread the berries on the dehydrator trays. You can crowd them in pretty close so long as they are not actually on top of each other; they will shrink considerably as they dry.

In my dehydrator, I find it takes around 10-14 hours to dry strawberries. I start checking after 10 hours and remove any that are fully dried. I check about every hour or so. You can do this on a weekend, or if you are home in the morning, start them overnight so they are ready for you to begin checking on them in the morning.

Parmesan Spinach Bulgur

Sneak some spinach-y goodness into a nice whole grain side dish. I served this warm, but it could work cold, too.

1 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups water or chicken stock
4-5 ounces spinach, stemmed
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the bulgur and water or stock in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat until tender. Drain off any excess liquid if needed.

While the bulgur cooks, lightly steam the spinach (I find one minute on high in the microwave in a covered glass bowl is about right) then puree it or chop it very finely.

When the bulgur is cooked, stir in the spinach and Parmesan, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4-6.

Creamy Pasta with Early Summer Garden Veggies and Bacon

This was absolutely divine. I love it when a recipe idea turns out even better than it was in my head.

Feel free to mix and match vegetables. I really liked the snap peas in this, but you could use chopped spinach, early zucchini, or whatever else sounds good. I threw in some chopped leftover grilled chicken as well, but it's definitely optional. If you're vegetarian and want to skip the bacon, you can and it will still be good - but of course it won't be the same. In that case, I suggest adding some grated Parmesan.

1 lb cut pasta such as shells or penne rigate
1 Tbsp butter
2-3 cups snap peas (diced), fava beans, shell peas, or combination
1 bunch scallions (including green part), chopped (about 2 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces bacon, cooked and chopped
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water. Drain when done, drizzle lightly with oil, and toss to coat.

While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce: Melt  the butter in a Dutch oven or other large saucepan. Add the scallions and snap peas or other vegetables. Saute over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes, until the scallion greens are wilted. Add the cream, then reduce heat and simmer for another 5 minutes or so. If using snap peas, they should be tender but still retain some crunch. Stir in the bacon and basil and simmer another minute or so. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Pour the veggie mixture over the sauce and toss to coat well. The cream will soak into the pasta after a while if you don't serve it immediately, but that's ok. Serve hot or warm.

Serves at about 6.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Celeriac Mashed Potatoes

It's well past celeriac season, but I had one lingering in the fridge and with the weather having taken a rather cold turn, mashed potatoes seems appealing (I served them with slow cooker braised beef shanks, yum!) The combined flavor of the potatoes and celeriac was pleasant, and as a bonus, my kids chowed down even though they normally reject celeriac.

Feel free to swap in other root vegetables for the celeriac if you like: parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, etc. Each will bring its own unique flavor to the mix.

1 large celeriac root, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 lbs potatoes, cubed (peel if you like; I don't)
Up to 1/2 cup milk
2-3 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley to taste (fresh or dried; optional)

Cook the celeriac and potatoes in a large pot of salted boiling water for about 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and return to the pot.

Mash the celeriac and potatoes with a potato masher, adding milk and butter until desired consistency is reached. Add salt and pepper to taste, plus parsley if desired.

Serves 4-6.

Asparagus Pizza with Salami and Feta

If you slice it thin or use slender stalks, you can put raw asparagus on a pizza and it will come out of the oven done to perfection. Here it is nicely counterpointed by the rich saltiness of feta and salami. (Feel free to skip the salami for a still delicious vegetarian version.)

1 14-inch pizza crust
Olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/4 lb asparagus, slice in 1/8-1/4-inch rounds
2 stalks green garlic, thinly sliced (including greens)
2 ounces diced salami
2 ounces crumbled feta
2 ounces shredded mozzarella

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

Spread the tomato sauce over the crust. Distribute the asparagus, green garlic, salami, and feta over the crust, then top with mozzarella.

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

Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Noodles with Spinach Peanut Sauce

This is a great dish for hot weather. I have made peanut noodles before, but I wanted to try the idea of getting some vegetables worked right into the sauce, and this worked really well. Plus my kids loved it. You can dress it up by adding tofu, meat, and raw vegetables if you like - later in the summer I'll be adding snap peas, carrots, and eventually red peppers.

1/2 lb spinach, stemmed and washed
2 stalks green garlic (or substitute scapes or garlic cloves)
2-3 Tbsp ginger root, coarsely chopped or grated
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup canola or peanut oil
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 Tbsp honey or brown sugar
Salt to taste
1 lb linguine or other noodles

Lightly steam the spinach, then immerse it in a bowl of cold water to cool it off.

Combine the spinach with the green garlic, soy sauce, oil, vinegar, peanut butter, and honey or brown sugar in the blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Set aside (chill if you like).

Cook the noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water. Drain when done, then rinse with cold water until thoroughly cooled. Drain again.

Combine the noodles with the sauce in a large bowl. Serve cold or room temperature.

Serves 4-6.

Chimichurri Sauce

This is a classic Argentine sauce, often served with steak - but it's great with grilled ham or chicken, too. And it was very satisfying to make with parsley and oregano from my garden. Later in the season, substitute scapes and eventually garlic cloves for the green garlic. You can mix it up a little with the recipe, too - parsley is a must, but you can try thyme instead of oregano, white wine vinegar or lemon juice instead of the red vinegar, etc.

1/4 cup oregano leaves, loosely packed
1 1/2 cups parsley leaves, loosely packed
2 stalks green garlic (including greens), coarsely chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in the blender and blend until fairly smooth. Serve immediately, or keep for several days in the refrigerator.

Makes a little over 1 cup, enough to provide plentiful sauce for meat serving 6-8.

Locavore Tacos

These have been a big hit with my family. I like that you can prepare all the fillings in advance and then just heat and serve at dinner time. I used beef from Freeman Farm, Sidehill Farm sour cream, local cheddar, locally grown and made tortillas from Mi Tierra, and greens and cilantro from my garden. As the season moves along, you can add local tomatoes, onions, and whatever else you like. Mix it up with different kinds of meat or beans. This is a great way to use up leftovers, too - meat, veggies, whatever.

I've been heating the tortillas on the grill several at a time, which is a big improvement over the skillet method.

12 corn tortillas (taco size)
1 lb ground beef
2 cups cooked black or pinto peans
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder (or to taste)
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh onions or scallions
Sour cream
Shredded cheddar or jack cheese
Lettuce or other greens
Salsa or hot sauce

Brown the beef in a medium skillet, adding cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper. When it's done, scoop out the meat and add the beans. Sprinkle with a touch more cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper. If not serving immediately, refrigerate meat and beans.

When you're ready to serve, heat the tortillas just enough to make them pliable and aromatic. Pass fillings and toppings at the table, load up the tortillas, and enjoy!

Serves about 4.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Spinach and Edam Quiche

It's springtime (even if the weather thinks it might be summer), and that means greens and eggs are plentiful. If you like, you could substitute shredded or sliced asparagus for the spinach in this recipe - just steam it lightly first. And if Edam doesn't suit you, swap in goat cheese or Swiss instead. I used Chase Hill Farm's Dutch Gold cheese, which is much like an Edam.

5 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups cream or milk (or a combination)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 lb spinach, washed and stemmed
1 9-inch unbaked pastry shell, prepared in the pan
Olive oil
2 ounces Edam, sliced or shredded

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the eggs and cream or milk in a medium bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly steam the spinach (I do this in a covered bowl for 1 minute in the microwave). Pour of excess liquid and chop finely.

Lightly oil the bottom of the pastry shell. Spread the cheese over the the bottom, then the spinach. Pour the egg mixture over the cheese and spinach. Swirl around gently to mix the ingredients.

Carefully transfer the quiche to the oven. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until cooked through. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.

Serves about 4.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Steak and Bean Soup with Ramps

A good way to use leftover steak. You could also make it with just the beans and ramps for a simpler version. I used dried Marfax beans grown by Crabapple Farm. The cooked remarkably quickly and are one of the creamiest textured beans I've ever had. Delicious. If you don't have heirloom beans handy, I suggest navy beans here.

1 cup dried beans, preferably local
6 cups beef stock
2 garlic cloves
Up to 1 lb leftover steak, sliced very thin then chopped up
1 bunch ramps (about 3 ounces), sliced thin from bulb to leaf
1 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the beans with the beef stock and garlic cloves. I did them in the slow cooker (which only took about 3 hours for the Marfax beans). You could also do this in the pressure cooker or stovetop. When they are done, remove the garlic cloves.

Melt the butter in a medium skillet. Quickly saute the sliced ramp bulbs and stems, then add the steak and saute just enough to warm it. Add the sliced ramp leaves and saute just long enough to wilt them.

Add the beef and ramp mixture to the beans and stock. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Grilled Ramps with Pesto

These were SO GOOD! I will definitely be making them again, and I am eager to try them with romesco sauce sometime as well. If you don't have pesto on hand in the freezer, eat the grilled ramps straight or try adding a bit of balsamic vinegar to the seasonings.

2 bunches of ramps (about 6 ounces total)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup pesto

Wash the ramps and trim off the end with the roots. Spread them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, then use your fingers to gently distribute the oil so they are fully coated all over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Carefully place the ramps on the grill over medium heat (place them cross-wise to the grate). Grill for one minute, then turn over and grill for another 30 seconds or so. Remove from heat.

Serve the ramps hot, with pesto for drizzling at the table.

Serves 2-4.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Streusel Top

I still have a few packages of strawberries in the freezer from last year. I figure we'll use them up just about in time to start picking fresh ones next month. Meanwhile, they go great with the rhubarb that is ready for harvest in my garden now. If you don't have strawberries, you can make a straight rhubarb pie that is also delicious - just be sure to add more sugar unless you like a rather tart pie. Either way, this is excellent with good quality vanilla ice cream.

If you are using frozen fruit, let it thaw entirely and then drain off the excess liquid if you want to avoid having an extremely juicy pie; you may wish to add another cup or so of fruit if you are doing this as it will be denser in volume.

1 9-inch pie shell
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose or white whole wheat flour
Dash of cinnamon
7 cups combined strawberries and rhubarb cut into 1-inch chunks
3/4 cup white sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
Dash of salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Shape the crust in a pie pan and prick all over with a fork, then stash it in the freezer while you prepare the topping and filling.

Using a pastry cutter or food processor, cut the butter, sugar, flour, and cinnamon together until well combined and crumbly. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the fruit, sugar, cornstarch and salt and stir until well combined.

Take the pie shell out of the freezer. Place the fruit mixture into it, evening it out, and then top with the streusel topping.

Bake for 45-60 minutes, until the crust is nicely brown and the pie is thoroughly bubbly. Let cool before serving.

Makes one 9-inch pie in a relatively deep dish.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Parsnip Fritters with Yogurt Sauce

Kind of like potato pancakes, only with parsnips. Use spring dug parsnips, and they'll be extra sweet when you fry them up. If you like, make them in a larger size and call them pancakes. Good as a side dish with dinner or brunch.

3 lbs parsnips, peeled, cored, and shredded
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tsp dried sage
2 Tbsp dried parsley (or 1/4 cup fresh)
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup all purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
3 eggs, beaten
Canola oil for frying
1 cup plain yogurt

Combine the shredded parsnips, onion, sage, parsley, salt, pepper, and flour in a bowl and mix until evenly coated. Pour the egg over the parsnip mixture and stir again until evenly coated.

Heat a little canola oil in a large skillet or two over medium heat. Place spoonfuls of the parsnip mix (1/4 cup or so) into the skillet(s), leaving a bit of space between. Press down with a spatula to flatten them. Cook for 3-4 minutes a side over medium heat. Keep warm in a low oven or covered plate while you cook the rest.

Add a large pinch of salt to the yogurt and whisk until smooth and thinned.

Serve the fritters hot and pass yogurt sauce at the table to drizzle over them.

Serves 5-6.

Pizza with Ramps and Feta

A simple pizza that celebrates fresh ramps.

1 14-inch pizza crust
Olive oil
3 ounces shredded mozzarella
1 bunch ramps (about 3 ounces)
2-3 ounces crumbled feta

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly paint the crust with olive oil, then sprinkle with mozzarella.

Clean the ramps and slice off the very bottom part with the roots. Slice up the rest of the ramps, from the bulb to the leaves, in about 1/8-inch slices.

Spread the sliced ramps over the mozzarella. They will cover it generously. Scatter the feta over the ramps.

Bake the pizza for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is done and the feta begins to brown on top.

Serves about 3.