Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winter Squash- is it sweet? is it savory?

Winter squashes are really versatile -- as versatile as their cousins 'summer squash'. Zucchini can be savory or sweet (zucchini bread, muffins, cake...). And so can just about any winter squash. The most popular winter squash recipes are for pumpkin pie and butternut squash soup. Yum to both!  But I wanted to try some other recipes and ways to enjoy them--- but first, to the Turban Squash.
Turban Squash. A delightfully exotic and decorative vegetable! I actually didn't want to cut into it for about a week just because I enjoyed looking at it. But I am, at the end of the day, a chef, and had to cook it. Try to cook it.
I'd never prepared or cooked a turban squash before. It was hard! I don't mean difficult, I mean hard. It was nearly impossible to cut into. I tried a heavy cleaver- nope. Slender cleaver- nope. Variety of chef knives-nope. Nada. Nein. Non. Not happening. I thought about going into the garage for the circular saw, but dismissed that thought for sanitary reasons. I needed to soften it.. So I pierced the skin with a sharp paring knife, put it on a baking sheet and put it in a 350 degree oven to bake. I checked it at 30 minutes to see if it was soft enough to cut- not yet. And again at 45 minutes. And at 75. It ended up taking 90 minutes to get soft enough for me to even cut it in half! Even then it wasn't cooked through. I scraped out the seeds and put it back in the pan, cut side down with some water because it was getting a bit browned and I didn't want the flesh to dry out. Thirty minutes later it was done. Phew.
Here's a funny thing- about halfway through its roasting period, my house smelled like I was baking cookies! It had a really nice, mildly sweet aroma. It's flavor is a cross between pumpkin and butternut squash. Sweeter than acorn squash. Some of it I'm freezing, some I ate just mashed with a bit of Irish butter and salt, and some is going into lasagna for dinner tonight. This recipe is not at all traditional, but highlights the subtle sweetness of the squash while pairing it with the acerbity of sauteed endive (also part of my winter share).

Winter Squash and Escarole Lasagna
This dish is chock-full of veggies. I’d start with a classic antipasti platter of Italian meats, cheeses, olives and bread, and finish with a simple salad with a lemony dressing.
For the Bechamel Sauce:
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups milk
1 cup cooked winter squash
1 fat clove garlic, mashed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the Escarole filling:
1 onion
1 bunch escarole
2 Tablespoons canola oil, or other vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
For the lasagna:
6 sheets ‘no-boil’ lasagna sheets
8 ounces mozzarella cheese

To make the Bechamel sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Stir to blend well. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Mash the squash and stir into the milk mixture with the garlic. Cook until thickened (the consistency of whipped cream) and add the Parmesan cheese and nutmeg. Keep on a very low heat while cooking the escarole.
To make the escarole filling: Separate the escarole leaves and wash well in several changes of water. Cut into 2-inch chunks. Peel and slice the onion. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the onion. Cook until just beginning to wilt, and add half the escarole. Stir and cook until beginning to wilt, and then add the remaining escarole. When it begins to wilt, add the water and oregano and turn the heat onto medium-high. Cook until the water begins to evaporate. Season with balsamic vinegar and continue to cook until most of the moisture has evaporated.
To assemble the lasagna: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread a 9x13-inch pan with about 1/4 cup of the béchamel. Top with 3 of the lasagna noodles. Spread all the escarole over the noodles and sprinkle half the mozzarella over the escarole. Top with the remaining noodles. Spread the béchamel/squash mixture over the noodles, making sure to coat all the edges. Top with the remaining mozzarella. Place in the oven and bake about 25 minutes, until the cheese is golden and the sauce is bubbling. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting.

More winter veggie recipes to come! 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

AUTUMN SHARE!

This week I picked up my first autumn share, took it out of the three bags it took to bring it home, and put it on the butcher block island. Do you believe how much food is there?? It could be daunting- okay, it is a little daunting. But remember these late-harvest vegetables last longer in a cool environment, so they don't have to be prepared, frozen, pickled or eaten right away. Phew!
The share includes a pumpkin and a turban squash, 4 heads of escarole, sweet potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, radishes, bell peppers, kohlrabi, broccoli and a big bag of Asian Mix lettuce. So, where's it all gonna go? Here are some of my plans:
I. Chili Rellenos
Mexican Brown Rice
Salad with Asian Mix, Escarole, Radishes and Tomatoes
II. Ginger Braised Kohlrabi
Eggplant and Escarole Curry
Dal
III. Braised Stuffed Escarole
Chicken Cacciatore
Linguini or Fettucini
IV. Braised Pork Chops with Apple Cider Sauce
Radish Chips
White Beans with Garlic and Thyme
V. Picante Pasta Casserole with Broccoli and Tomatoes
Sauteed Escarole
I can't put all these recipes on this little blog, but here are a few:
Kohlrabi Braised with Ginger
I had never had kohlrabi before some landed in my box at the farm. Since then I’ve sautéed them, pickled them, pureed them and put them in tons of dishes. This is one of the first dishes I made with them.
2 Tablespoons oil 
1 Tablespoon (about a 1-inch piece) fresh ginger
1 clove fresh garlic (large)
1/2 jalapeno
1/2 Tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
4 to 6 small kohlrabi with greens (about 1 pound)
1 cup water, or as needed
1/2 bunch scallions
  1. Peel the ginger and grate it with a zester or mince it. Peel the garlic and mince it. Carefully scoop out the seeds and veins from the jalapeno (you might want to wear gloves to protect your skin) and chop it. Peel the kohlrabi (I use a vegetable peeler) and cut into 3/4-inch strips. Finely chop the leaves. Trim the scallions and slice thinly on the diagonal.
  2. Heat the oil in a large wok or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and jalapeno pepper, and stir about 30 seconds. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, and salt, and then mix in the kohlrabi and leaves. Cook about 5 minutes over medium heat.
  3. Add the water, cover the pan, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the kohlrabi is tender and most of the water has evaporated, stirring occasionally, about 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle the scallions on top, and serve.
Braised Stuffed Escarole
1 or 2 heads of escarole
1 clove of garlic
1 cup kalamata olives
2 Tablespoons raisins (preferably golden raisins)
1/3 cup pine nuts or almonds
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
olive oil, as needed

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Trim the escarole, but keep it whole. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the escarole. Simmer 5 to 7 minutes, until wilted, but still holding its shape. Drain and gently pat out the extra water.
3. While the escarole are cooking, peel and mince the garlic. Pit the olives, if needed, and coarsely chop. If using almonds, coarsely chop. Grate the cheese. Combine the garlic, olives, raisins, nuts and 1/4 cup of the grated cheese in a bowl and set aside reserving the remaining cheese.
4. Open up the cooled escarole and spoon the cheese mixture into the very center. Close up the heads to complete enclose the filling. 
5. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large, heavy ovenproof skillet. Add the escarole ‘rolls’ and cook on all sides, turning them when they just begin to turn color. 
6. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese and bake for 15 minutes.

Have a wonderful week!!! I can't wait to eat my way through this share. If you want recipes for any of the dishes in the menus, just ask (in the comment section).
Cheers!





Sunday, October 24, 2010

Turnips?? Rutabagas?? Swedes??

Growing up in a large Irish-American family, turnips to me meant that big yellow, waxy bulb that you can't cut without a cleaver. They'd turn up at the holidays--Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas-- prepared by my Grandma Brown. Simply boiled, mashed, and seasoned with butter, salt and pepper. None of us really seemed to like the turnips (and in those days the gathering was large-- with just my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins we were over 20 at the table(s)). But we all had a dollop of turnips on our plates, to make Grandma happy.
I now know that what we called turnips are really rutabagas-- called 'swedes' in the UK-- a winter root vegetable that is best boiled and mashed. Not so yummy raw. The turnips I get in my CSA share are white and purple, the density of potatoes (as opposed to rocks), and have a distinctive peppery taste. Young specimens can be enjoyed raw. You can treat them a bit like potatoes-- keeping in mind that they do bring their own distinctive flavor to however you are preparing them. I've become quite fond of the turnip -- I liked the recipe for Scalloped Turnips with Apples so much, I had seconds last night. It's a perfect fall dish, warm and creamy, marrying the root vegetable with local apples.
Scalloped Turnips with Apples
1 large or 2 medium white turnips
1 large apple
1 small onion
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Peel the turnips and the apple. Cut them into thin slices. Peel the onion and slice thinly. 
Place half of the turnips in a single layer in the bottom of a gratin or baking dish. Sprinkle half the apples and half the onions over the turnips. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with 1 Tablespoon of butter and sprinkle one Tablespoon of flour over all. Repeat with remaining turnips, apple, onion, butter and flour. 
Pour enough milk over all to come halfway up the vegetables. Cover tightly (use aluminum foil if the baking dish does not have a tight lid) and bake 30 minutes.
Remove cover, return to the oven and bake another 10 minutes, until the turnips are tender and the milk has thickened slightly. Serve hot.

What To Do With TURNIPS

1. Eat them raw: Young fresh turnip is crisp and refreshing with a mild spicy flavor, much like radishes but milder. Julienne it and add it to salad or coleslaw, or as a crisp contrast in chicken salad 
2. Roast them: Either alone or with other root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes. Cut the vegetables into similar sizes and preheat the oven to 375. Toss with melted butter or olive oil and season with salt and pepper (for fancier seasonings there are recipes in the book). Bake for 30 minutes to an hour, depending upon the size of the vegetables, until tender.
3. Braise them: Cut them into cubes and sauté with onions in butter or oil until just changing color. Cover with chicken or vegetable stock and maybe a little white wine and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. You can then remove the turnips and turn the heat on high to boil the sauce to reduce it. Serve the turnips with the sauce.
4. Boil them: for large turnips, peel and dice and place in a pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for 20 minutes or longer, until tender. Drain. Serve cubed, dressed with butter and salt and pepper, or mash with butter.
5. Pressure cook them: Peel and cut into 1-inch thick slices. Cover with 1 cup of water and cook for 3 minutes.
6. Microwave them: Peel and cut into wedges. For each medium turnip add 1/2 tablespoon of water and cook, covered, on high, for 3 minutes.
7. Fry them: Cut into 1/2” strips, and fry in 1-inch of water until crisp, turning often. Serve with ketchup, or mayonnaise mixed with horseradish.

HOW TO STORE TURNIPS:  Do not wash. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 4 months.

Enjoy!!



Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Plethora of Peppers

In May I planted a variety of peppers in my little courtyard garden... Thai Poinsettia, habanero, jalapeno and anaheims. I've really enjoyed having them, as well as fresh herbs- some from pots included in my CSA share, some perennials, and some I planted. It's been great to pad out in the morning and grab some basil and a pepper to add to scrambled eggs, or shred and sprinkle over a bagel and cream cheese. Now we're getting ready for the first frost, and it's time for me to pick what's there and think about pulling them out for the winter.
So I went out in the cool of the morning and picked everything there. Here's a picture of this morning's harvest. I couldn't bring myself to pull up the plants just yet--flowers on the pepper plants promised more peppers in the cool, sunny days to come. While I was out there, I also picked a bowlful of green grape tomatoes.
But... now I have a plate-full of really spicy peppers to use!! Here's the plan:
Spicy Pepper Sherry, simple as can be. In a few weeks I'll have a condiment to sprinkle on veggies, maybe brighten up a soup or some rice or a baked potato. Use in stir fries and other Asian dishes.
Green Tomato Salsa. Using the the unripe grape tomatoes, some corn from this week's share, basil, oregano, chilies, and adding garlic, lime juice, and a little cumin and olive oil.
Chiles Rellenos. Dinner! This recipe will use the eggs from my farm share this week, leftover Corn Milk Tortillas from last week and the above mentioned Green Tomato Salsa.
Spicy Pepper Sherry
Using the garlic and ginger will definitely give this an Asian flare. If you want it to be more versatile, leave out the ginger.
1 bottle sherry (I'm using Fino, 'cause that's what I have, but any sherry will do)
5 jalapeno peppers
2 cloves garlic (optional)
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled (optional)

Make sure the peppers are super clean. Peel the garlic and ginger. Pour out 1 cup of sherry from the bottle and push the peppers, garlic and ginger into them (cut them if you must, but try not to). Top off with as much of the sherry you removed as fits. Cap and store in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Wash the sherry bottle with hot soapy water and pour the strained sherry back into the bottle. Use in soups, stews, stir fries, sauces for chicken wings or ribs.

Green Tomato Salsa
You don't have to use grape tomatoes. If substituting regular sized green tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces before measuring.
2 cups green grape tomatoes
1 ear corn
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers
1 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon fresh basil or cilantro
2 Tablespoons fresh chives OR 1 scallion
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cut the kernels off the corn cob. Cut off the stems of the peppers and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and veins from the peppers. Peel the garlic. 
Place the tomatoes, peppers, corn and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times until coarsely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until minced. 
Store in the refrigerator.
Chile Rellenos
If using fresh peppers, charring them first is important. You can use canned, peeled peppers in the winter. 
6 Anaheim or Cubanelle (aka 'Italian Frying") peppers
8 ounces cheddar cheese
1/4 cup flour
2 eggs
oil for frying

1. Char and peel the peppers: Inside-- if you have a gas stove, turn a burner on high (turn on the vent) and place the whole peppers right on the flame. Turn as the outsides blacken. When they are all charred, place in a paper or plastic bag and let steam. When cool, rub off the charred skin by running them under cold water. OR place under a broiler until charred, place in a bag and rub off the skin. Outside-- place directly on coals or over a high flame on the grill. Turn as the skins turn black. Follow the directions for steaming and removing skin, above.
2. Cut a small slit, lengthwise, near the top of each pepper at the stem end, about 1-inch long. 
3. Cut the cheese into pieces that will fit into the peppers, estimating the length and width of each pepper (better to be a bit smaller than large when doing this estimation). Carefully ease the cheese into the pepper through the slit.
4. Separate the eggs. Whip the egg whites to a soft peak (this takes me about 2 minutes by hand with a wire whisk). Fold in 2 Tablespoons of flour and the egg yolks.
5. Dredge the peppers in flour.
6. Heat 1-inch of oil in a heavy skillet. When a drop of batter fluffs up immediately, place one pepper into the batter. With a large spoon turn it around until coated by the batter and carefully place in the hot pepper. Repeat with remaining peppers (you probably can't fit them all into your skillet, so do it in batches). When the batter puffs up and is golden, turn over and continue to cook until both sides are lightly browned. Remove to paper towel lined plate.
7. Serve with salsa and sour cream. Good side dishes are rice, refried beans, and/or tortillas.

My share this week included broccoli, lettuce, eggs, corn, turnips and collard greens. Here's where everything went:

Giant chef salad with hard cooked eggs, lettuce, and some broccoli
London broil with Brazilian Greens and sweet potato (from last week's share)
Beef burritos using leftover london broil, lettuce, tomatoes, green tomato salsa
Chile rellenos with green tomato salsa and corn milk tortillas from last week
Oven Fried chicken, Herb baked corn on the cob, steamed broccoli

Have a great week!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mello's Farm Stand and Corn-Milk Tortillas

Laura and Art Mello wear many hats. During the school year, Art coaches basketball and girls' soccer and Laura teaches science at the local community college. Year 'round they are parents of 10-year old Sarah and six-year old Cooper. And from spring to fall they are farmers and retail produce sellers. Mello's Farm Stand in Portsmouth, Rhode Island offers the produce that Art and Laura grow on 30 acres in Tiverton and Little Compton as well as other fruits, vegetables and honey that Art buys wholesale for the stand. They provide produce for Brown University dining services, sell wholesale to Whole Foods, and sell at the East Side Marketplace in Providence and have a small CSA program. Teacher, coach, Mom, Dad, farmers and entrepreneurs- the Mellos are busy people! They take pride in what they do, and include the children in both the farming and the business. Sarah designed the canvas bags used by the CSA members for their shares each week- a cheerful representation of the Mello family's work ethic.

Back home in Connecticut, I've been trying to figure out different ways to use corn. Yes, corn. As much as we look forward to the first taste of corn each summer, I'm getting bored with it. So today I husked 5 ears from the week's share and grated it into a large bowl, producing 2 cups of 'corn milk'-- liquid and grated corn. And I stared at it for awhile. Put in a load of laundry. Took the dog out. Thought I'd put it in a yeast bread but couldn't find yeast (what's that about? I always have yeast!). I thought about corn bread or corn muffins, but they're not that flexible, and am I really going to eat a dozen muffins? I could give them to the neighbors....
Finally I decided to make flour tortillas, but use the 'corn milk' instead of water. I didn't know if it would work. Would the corn make the tortillas break up too much to be rolled thinly? Would the starch content in the corn react with the flour gluten in some way, making the dough too elastic or not elastic enough? There's only one way to tell. So I used my standard flour tortilla recipe, and literally just substituted the corn milk for the water. They rolled out really easily, and are delicious!! Perfect for breakfast or a lunch wrap. You can really taste the corn in them, without the graininess of cornmeal.
"Corn-milk" Tortillas
5 ears fresh sweet corn
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 teaspoons salt
4 ounces butter or lard

Husk the corn, making sure to remove all the silky strands. Using a box grater, grate the ears, removing as much liquid as possible. You should have about 2 cups of 'corn milk'. If not, add water to make 2 cups.
Place the flour in a bowl and add the salt. Mix to combine. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut in the butter or lard until all pieces are the size of petite peas.  Add the corn milk all at once and stir. The mixture will seem dry. 
Turn out onto a very lightly floured board and gather the mass together. Knead gently, squeezing the dough together to make a fairly smooth ball. 
Divide into 12 to 16 pieces and form into balls (if you don't start out with a circular ball, it will be hard to make the tortillas round as you roll them out). Heat two cast iron skillets or a griddle over medium high heat.
Roll out each ball of dough, turning frequently and using flour as needed to avoid sticking to the surface until the tortilla is quite thin, about 10-inches in diameter. Place on the hot, ungreased skillet or griddle and cook until you can see little puffs in the tortilla- less than one minute. Flip over for 30 seconds or so and remove to a plate. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
Serve hot with butter or cheese, frijoles or any kind of burrito filling, or use as a sandwich wrap.

Have a great week!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wishing Stone Farm:8 Greenhouses, 3 Properties, and Bio-fuel

Biofuel tanks in Cucumber Greenhouse
Eggs. Honey. Salsa, pesto, scones, wholegrain bread, soups, dips, pickles. A backyard designed for children's programs. A chicken coop that looks like a caboose. And a really adorable dog named Baxter. Wishing Stone Farm in Little Compton, Rhode Island is incredibly diverse. Skip Paul has spent most of his adult life sharing his passion for sustainable farming, bringing his certified organic and IPM produce, eggs and honey to urban environments. Local CSA members pick up their share at the farm in the spacious 'pick-up' room, but most members use a credit system at four separate farmers markets throughout Rhode Island. He and his wife, Liz Peckham, also have a certified kitchen where they create and sell products under the label "Babette's Feast" (their Cilantro Lover's Salsa is really yummy!), and have designed an outdoor space for children's programs. They've been farming this land for over 30 years, recently installing greenhouse heaters that run on used car oil to reduce heating costs and recycle waste. Conscientious, innovative, welcoming and fun describe this successful family farm.
Here in Connecticut it is finally feeling like autumn! My share this week included leeks, lettuce, tomatoes, cubanelle and bell peppers, potatoes, corn, fennel and cucumbers. Today I'm making soup with the peppers, fennel, potatoes, and leeks. The house is filled with the aroma of roasting pepper and fennel, and I can't wait for dinner! 

Roasted Fennel, Leek and Pepper Soup
Roasting mellows the flavors of these vegetables, makng them less aggressive. Carrots and an apple  add a little sweetness.
4 cubanelle or other mildly hot peppers (about  4 ounces)
1 medium fennel bulb (about 8 ounces)
several small carrots (about 4 ounces)
1 medium leek
2 medium potatoes (about 12 ounces)
1 apple
canola or other mild vegetable oil
2 cups chicken broth or mild-flavored vegetable broth (you don’t want the veggies in the broth to compete with the flavors of these veggies)
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons chopped chives (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Wash all the vegetables and the apple. Trim the fronds off the fennel and cut it in half (reserve the fronds for garnish). Trim the carrots and the leek. Cut them into 2-inch pieces. Cut the apple in half. 
3. Place the vegetables in a baking dish and toss with a tablespoon of the oil. Add the apple to the pan. Cover the pan with foil, and place the pan with the veggies in the oven. Place the potatoes on the oven rack. Roast about an hour until tender.
4. Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the flesh. Scoop the cooked apple off the peel. Chop the fennel, leek and carrots coarsely. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and veins. Chop coarsely. Put all in a soup pot. Add 2 cups chicken broth and a bay leaf. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Puree with a hand blender or in a food processor or blender. Return to heat and taste, adding salt and pepper as needed. 
5. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds and chives. Serve with Stilton Crackers.
Stilton Cheese Crackers
If you don't like Stilton, you can substitute cheddar or swiss. These are great with cocktails, too.
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces butter
6 ounces Stilton Cheese
2 tablespoons white vinegar
coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup cold water

1. Shred the cheese.
2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, sugar and salt. Break the butter into small pieces the size of baby peas (you can use your fingers, a pastry blender or 2 knives for this). Stir in the cheese, vinegar and cold water, mixing only until the mixture forms a soft dough. Shape the dough into a ball; wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour or until dough is firm enough to handle (this can be done several days ahead of time).

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece as thin as you can get it—about a 10-inch square. Cut into squares or triangles, or use a cookie cutter (I have one shaped like a maple leaf that I like to use). 

4. Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper. Bake about 10 minutes or until browned and crisp.

I'm really looking forward to autumn- I love this kind of weather, autumn vegetables, autumn colors, autumn clothes, autumn leaves... and cooking autumn soups and stews. 
Have a terrific week!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Springdell Farms- putting a smile on the customer's face

Jamie and Jodi of Springdell Farms, Littleton, MA
Jamie Cruz was bitten by the farming bug early in life. The grand-daughter of James and Marea Theodoros, she represents the third generation of farming Springdell Farms. At age 8 she decided she wanted to plant her own flowers and sell them. Her mom, and current partner in the farm, let her pick out seeds from the catalogue. She chose purple and lime green zinneas. When they were ready, she picked them -- too short! But made little nosegays with them and sold her first bunch to a gentleman who still comes every week and buys a bunch of flowers at the farm stand. Now, at a very young age, she runs the farm with professionalism, enthusiasm and a great big smile. Springdell Farms in Littleton, Massachusetts offers a charming farm stand, a 175 member CSA program, meat subscriptions, and a home to a menagerie of what they call 'pets and misfits'- including hissing geese, llamas, rescued burros, pigs, turkeys and goats-attends local farmer's markets,  and provides produce to local restaurants as well. Whew! Their CSA boxes are chock full of fruits and vegetables- the week I visited, the share included berries, peaches, lettuce, kohlrabi, peppers, onions and cucumbers. Jamie has great plans for Springdell farms, hoping to triple the number of CSA shares next year. 
Meanwhile, back in Connecticut, I'm loving corn and eggplant in my share.

Curry Roast Corn and Eggplant
This is a great basic dish that can be served as a side dish with pork or chicken, or it can be tossed with pasta and walnuts and raisins and served as a pasta salad (add some tuna and it’s a main dish salad)
5 ears corn
1 medium eggplant or 5-6 Japanese eggplants
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 clove garlic
1 medium onion
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

  1. Husk the corn and remove the silk. Cut the kernels off the cob. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes by cutting it into 1-inch planks lengthwise, then cutting the planks into strips and then into cubes. Peel and mince the garlic. Cut the onion in half and peel. Chop it roughly.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy, ovenproof skillet and add the eggplant. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the eggplant begins to wilt. Add the corn, garlic, onion and curry powder and cook until the curry becomes fragrant, about another 3 or 4 minutes. Add the water, stir, cover and place in the oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the dish has taken on a deep golden color. 

Curry Roast Corn and Eggplant Salad
1/2 recipe of Curry Roast Corn
12 ounces whole wheat shaped pasta, such as penne
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 Tablespoons walnuts
1 six-ounce can solid white tuna
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and run under cold water to cool. Drain again. Toss with remaining ingredients. Serve cold or at room temperature.
how gorgeous are these!?



Monday, September 6, 2010

Kirk Farm: "Old Time Organic Farmer"

If I was writing a novel and one of the characters was a stereotypical New England farmer- a little gruff, hard working, generous, honest, and stubborn, with a dry sense of humor- it would describe George Kirk of Kirk Farm in Groton, Massachusetts. He calls himself an 'old time organic farmer' raising chickens, goats and rabbits as well as growing vegetables and flowers for his CSA members, wholesale customers and several farmers markets. In recent years some health issues, flooding and blight have tried to knock him down. But he's up, still farming, with his wife and some part time workers helping him. We encountered him preparing seedlings for his next planting as a member doing a workshare greeted members and knitted in the CSA pick-up room.
Kirk Farm's CSA share is one of the most generous I've encountered so far. The week I was there, members received zucchini, cucumbers, lettuce, corn, squash, onions, beans, garlic, basil, tomatoes, kale, beets, peppers and melon. Phew! They are also encouraged to go into the fields and pick their own bunches of flowers, and visit the rabbits and goats (George loves his goats, and tells stories about their antics).
In addition to the huge amount of vegetables the members receive, and the PYO flowers, they can also purchase Kirk Farm eggs and artisanal cheeses from West River Creamery. Lots to eat and flowers for your table-- what a great way to start the week!
Melon and Cucumber Salad
1/2 melon (musk, honeydew, watermelon, cantaloupe- pretty much any kind of melon)
2 cucumbers
1 small very fresh onion, or 2 scallions
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or very light olive oil
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Kosher salt to taste
  1. Cut the melon off the rind, remove the seeds and cut into medium dice (bite-sized pieces)
  2. Cut the ends off the cucumbers and cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and slice into thin half-moons.
  3. Peel the onion and cut in half, and then into thin strips (if using scallions, slice thinly on the diagonal). 
  4. Toss everything together with the chopped basil.
  5. Mix together the lime juice and oil and toss with the salad ingredients. Sprinkle on the crumbled goat cheese. Taste and season with salt, if desired (it might not need salt if the goat cheese is salty). Serve with crusty bread.


What to Do With...Green Beans (or yellow wax beans)
  1. Eat them raw: wash them and trim off the stem end and eat them on their own, in a crudité platter with dips, or in a salad.
  2. Steam them: place in steam-basket, bring a few inches of water to boil, cover and steam for 3 to 5 minutes. Eat hot, dressed with butter or olive oil, or refresh in ice water and eat cold in salads.
  3. Microwave them: wash them and trim off the stem ends. For every pound of green beans add 1/2 cup of water. Microwave on high for 4 minutes per pound.
  4. Freeze them: after steaming or micro-waving them, dry well and place in freezer-strength zipper bags and store in the freezer. When ready to use, plunge the beans into rapidly boiling water for one minute only.
  5. Stir-fry them: in sesame oil with garlic and ginger and dress with soy sauce, rice vinegar and minced scallions.
  6. Sauté them: in olive oil with garlic or in butter. 

To store green beans or yellow beans: store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Cheers!



Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hanson's Farm: Beauty, Tradition and Diversity

Tom and Martha Hanson of  Hanson's Farm in Framingham, Massachusetts, love farming. They are the fifth generation of Hansons to farm, and really want to keep farming. They are smart, fun and flexible. A few years ago they realized that in order for the farm to stay afloat, they needed to utilize all of the farm and all of their talents and skills. The result is that they’ve diversified in some very unique and cool ways. They have a beautiful, inviting farmstand filled with fresh vegetables in vibrant greens and reds and purples. A comfortable armchair in a corner, a table with chairs on a side-porch, and a sign reading “Be Nice or Go Away’ all reflect their open nature and sense of humor. They raise pastel-colored eggs from heirloom chickens, stable horses, have a corn maze, and annually have a Haunted Hay Ride that brings in nearly a hundred volunteers. They give birthday parties and field trips. And they have a very successful CSA program. Hanson's Farm is a delightful place to shop and a fun place to visit. In honor of Martha's eggs, here are some egg recipes!
Alsatian Onion Tart
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces cold unsalted butter or lard, or a combination
2 ounces cold vegetable shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 to 5 Tablespoons ice water
Filling:
4 ounces thick sliced bacon (about 4 slices)
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds onions 
1-1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1. Blend together the flour, butter or lard, shortening, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender until the pieces are the size of baby peas. Drizzle 4 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture and stir with a fork or your fingers until incorporated. If the dough doesn't hold together, add more ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until it does. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. With the heel of your hand, knead once or twice. Gather dough together and press into a ball and then flatten into a disk. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.
2. Roll out the dough on a floured surface into a 14-inch round. Lift the dough into a 12-inch tart pan. Trim off the excess dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Fold the overhanging dough into the pan and press against the side to reinforce the edge. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.Line the chilled shell with foil and fill with pie weights (you can use raw rice or dried beans for pie weights). Bake until the pastry is set and pale golden along the rim, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and return to the oven to bake until golden all over, 10 to 15 minutes more. Transfer shell to a rack, leaving the oven on.
Cut the bacon into small pieces, about 1/8th inch thick. Cut the onions in half, peel and slice thinly. Place the bacon in a cold skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the cooked bacon to paper towels. Add the butter to the skillet and, when melted, add the onions with half the salt and pepper. Cook over medium –low heat, stirring, until quite wilted, about 2 minutes. Cover and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and pale golden, about 20 minutes. Stir in the bacon and remove from the heat. Let cool about 10 minutes. Whisk together the cream, eggs, nutmeg, and the rest of the salt and pepper in a large bowl. Drain any liquid that has settled out of the onions and add the onions to the cream mixture.Pour the filling into the tart shell, spreading onions evenly, and bake 35 to 45 minutes, until the filling is set and golden. Serve warm or at room temperature, as a main dish or in small portions as an appetizer.
Summer Spaghetti Carbonara
1 pound spaghetti
4 eggs
1/2 pound bacon
1 onion
freshly grated parmesan cheese, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Beat the eggs. Cut the bacon into half-inch pieces. Peel and slice the onion. Cook the bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp. Set aside. Cook the onion in the bacon fat.  Combine the bacon and onion in a bowl with the beaten eggs. Remove a half a cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta. Drain the pasta and add to the bowl. Toss and mix well, adding some pasta water a tablespoon at a time if it is too dry. Toss in the cheese and season with pepper. Serve with crusty bread and a large green salad.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Picadilly Farm- Partnerships in the Community

Jenny and Bruce Wooster had a vision: they wanted to farm in partnership with the community. But the theme of partnership runs much deeper than CSA shares at Picadilly Farm in New Hampshire.
When the Woosters were looking for a farm, they met the Hudsons, dairy farmers thinking about retiring and selling the farm. Jenny and Bruce bought the farm from the Hudsons in 2006, but the relationship continued to flourish as the Hudsons helped the Woosters change the farm from a dairy farm to vegetable production. During my visit, Mr. Hudson dropped into the farmhouse to talk with Bruce- the friendship and trust was evident in their brief exchange in the kitchen (as Bruce bounced baby Jesse on his hip).
Picadilly Farm partners with 5 other farms to make the most of each farm's resources, each growing a crop to share with the other farms to round out their repertoire. In order to connect to more communities, there are five pick-up sites for CSA shares throughout southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  They offer a sliding scale for those who may not be able to afford the fresh, organic produce they grow, and provide food to several shelters and food pantries.
The feeling of community and family is evident in the way that Picadilly does CSA pick-up at the farm. Members have a broad choice of vegetables, choosing in a mix-and-match format in their charming picking room. AND they have a 'pick-your-own' plot of land, offering extra vegetables, berries, flowers and herbs that the members can gather themselves.
Bruce and his crew were picking melons the day I visited. The yellow watermelon is not just gorgeous but juicy and sweet. While melons are delicious on their own, they are great foils for spicy ingredients such as peppers, garlic and onion. Firmer melons, such as honeydew and cantaloupe, can be grilled or sauteed, alone or with a sprinkle of chili or curry powder. Add chunks of them to kebabs, or simply serve as a side course. Here are a few of my favorite ways to serve them (other than just cutting and eating, of course!)

Shrimp and Melon Soup
This is good for leftover grilled or boiled shrimp. You can also use crab or lobster meat, or leave the shellfish out completely.
One small watermelon
1 small red onion
2-inch piece fresh ginger
1 fat clove garlic
1 hot chili, such as jalapeno
1 small lime
1 to 2 cups cooked shrimp, lobster or crabmeat
2 Tablespoons chopped mint
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
1. Cut the watermelon in half and remove from the rind. Cut into chunks, removing the seeds. Peel and cut the onion and cut into quarters. Peel the ginger and cut into several pieces. Peel the garlic. Cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds. Zest the lime with a rasp, zester, or smallest hole on a box grater and set aside. Juice the lime, and place the watermelon, onion, ginger, garlic, pepper and lime juice in a food processor and process until smooth.
2. Combine the shrimp, mint and cilantro. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
3. To serve, place a scoop of the seafood mixture in a bowl. Ladle the soup around the seafood, garnish with a sprinkle of lime zest, and serve cold.

Melon Salsa
1/2 melon- any kind
1 – 2 hot peppers (cherry, jalapeno)
2 – 3 Tablespoons fresh basil, mint or cilantro
1 small red onion or 2 scallions
1 lime
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Remove the melon fruit from the rind and dice into small pieces. If using watermelon, remove the seeds as you dice it. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and veins (wear gloves, or scoop out with a spoon- a grapefruit spoon is great for this). Cut into strips and then mince. Chop the fresh herbs. Peel the onion, if using, and cut into very small dice. If using scallions, trim and chop.
2. Zest the lime with a rasp, zester, or the smallest holes on a box grater. Toss together the melon, pepper, herbs, onion or scallions, and lime zest. Juice the lime and sprinkle over all. Toss again and season with salt and pepper

If you are choosing your own melons, choose ones that feel heavier than you'd think they'd be, and that have a fruity fragrance at their stem end. Avoid melons that are already soft, or cantaloupe that are still green. Store honeydews, cantaloupes and like melons in the refrigerator, but watermelon can be stored at room temperature until cut- then refrigerate.

Happy eating!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mirepoix for the Summer

I’m calling it Summer Mirepoix. Mirepoix is a mixture of 50% onions, 25% carrots and 25% celery, used as a base for most soups and many classic sauces. It can be chopped coarsely, left in large chunks, or diced precisely—the magic is in the combination of flavors.
But... I currently have corn, zucchini and onions, and so that's what I’m using as a base for soups and sauces. Fifty percent zucchini, 25% corn and 25% onions. Chili, chowder, pasta sauce, corn pudding, quiches—it’s all good. I’ve also chopped my ‘Summer Mirepoix’, sautéed it and frozen it in small batches to add to soups and stews during the winter, resurrecting summer flavors in January and February.
Summer 'Mirepoix'
1 pound (16 ounces) zucchini
8 ounces corn kernels
8 ounces onion
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
Wash the zucchini and cut into small dice. Dice the onion. Heat the oil or butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring, over low heat until the onion is soft and the zucchini is tender. 
Summer Mirepoix Quiche
Leftover ham can be used in place of the bacon-- dice it, but there's no need to saute it. This is also a great use of the eggs in my share!
Dough for a 9” pie crust
1/2 pound slab bacon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 
2 cups Summer Mirepoix
pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 
3 eggs 
1- 1/2 cups milk 
1/4 pound Gruyere cheese, grated (about 1-1/3 cups)
1/4 cup minced fresh thyme (optional)
1. Cook bacon in a skillet over low heat until crisp. Drain off excess fat. Add the mirepoix, salt and pepper. Set aside. 
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry from center out, lifting pastry, turning it slightly, and occasionally flipping to prevent sticking. Roll pastry to 1/8 -inch thickness.  Gently pick up the pastry and place in a 9-inch pie pan, leaving about 1/4-inch overhang for shrinkage. Pinch up excess pastry to form a rim and flute the edges. Prick the bottom all over with a fork.
3. Line the pastry with a sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil larger than the pan, and fill with pie weights, rice, or dry beans. Bake about 20 minutes, until the edges begin to color. Remove the paper and weights. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. 
4. In a bowl, beat the eggs lightly with the milk and herbs, if using. Spread the vegetables and bacon over the bottom of the crust.  Sprinkle the vegetables with the cheese. Pour the custard into the pie shell to within 1/4-inch of the top of the crust. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until the filling puffs. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Summer Mirepoix Chowder
3 cups Summer Mirepoix
1/2 pound thick bacon, cut into small pieces 
1 large clove minced garlic
1 bay leaf 
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 cups scrubbed baking potatoes, cut into 1/2” cubes
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup milk 
1 cup heavy cream 
Salt 
Freshly ground black pepper 
1 bunch scallions, sliced
1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed saucepan, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until lightly brown. Add the garlic bay leaf, thyme, potatoes and Summer Mirepoix.. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. 
2. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer slowly, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. 
3. Add the milk and cream, and simmer for 5 minutes, making sure the soup does not boil. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf.  Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. 
4. Ladle into soup bowls garnish each serving with the green onions.



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What to do with slightly wilted lettuce, and other stuff

The beginning of the growing season is both exciting and challenging, from a culinary perspective. Great fresh things are coming from the garden, sometimes faster than you can actually cook and eat them!
Lettuce is a great example. It grows in abundance early in the season, and is not fresh and crispy for very long.
So, what to do with the slightly wilted lettuce?
Hopefully you've stored it well. But if it is looking a bit worse for wear, try sauteeing it or braising it.
Sauteeing simply means cooking it at a high heat for a brief amount of time. Braising is a 'combination' cooking method, which means it is cooked by a dry method first, then a wet method. Think pot roast (seared in oil then simmered in a liquid) or any kind of stew (including chili!). Cooking lettuce that is not-yet-garbage-but-not-showcase-material is a good way to enjoy the product.
You can change the character or personality of the dish with the kind of fat you use or the cooking liquid, or the herbs you choose. I've included some samples below.
Tonight for dinner we had braised lettuce with Cajun Baked Tofu and BBQ dipping sauce and baked potatoes. Instead of tofu, chicken could be substituted.

Cajun Baked Tofu
Substitute chicken breasts or thighs and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
1 package firm tofu
1 Tablespoon Cajun seasoning
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 Tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
Cooking oil spray
BBQ sauce (optional)
1. Place the tofu on a plate and place another plate on top of the tofu. Place something heavy on the plate (such as canned goods) as a weight. Let stand 10 minutes to press out excess water.
2. Whisk together the Cajun seasoning, canola oil and soy sauce in a large shallow bowl or glass pie pan. Cut the tofu into 3 large slabs, and then cut each slab on the diagonal into 6 triangles. Place the tofu triangles in the marinade and turn them over to coat all sides. Let marinate 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
4. Place the tofu triangles on a baking sheet. Bake 15- 20  minutes until crisp. Serve with barbeque sauce, if desired.
Leftover Sandwich: Toast a whole wheat hamburger roll. Slice 1/2 a tomato and a radish. Sandwich the tofu, radish and tomato in the roll, sprinkled with a bit of kosher salt.

Cheers!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tracie's Community Farm: The Magic is in the Details


Tracie Smith started growing vegetables and selling shares of the harvest while she was in college, and she’s never stopped. Now, Tracie’s Community Farm in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire has hundreds of share members, enjoying the produce she grows for both summer and winter harvests. 

In my instructional kitchen at Masuk High in Connecticut, I have a sign on the wall: The Magic is in the Details. Tracie pays attention to the details. The rows on her farm are straight and weed-free; her field tomatoes carefully trellised and standing straight and strong. She and her staff carefully trim the vegetables as they pick them, taking back buckets of beautifully prepped vegetables to the barn for inclusion in the CSA baskets. Her members have lots of choices, all carefully weighed and bagged and tucked into quaint farm baskets. Add-ons include mesclun, kale, herbs, and chard. Eggs, bread, cut flowers, and some dairy products are also available in the barn. Half of her shares are delivered to the member-- just one example of her focus on making sure her members are treated with care. The magic is in the details.

Back in Connecticut, I just picked up my share from Stone Gardens Farm this morning: eggplant, zucchini, corn, kale, potatoes, onion, garlic, yellow grape tomatoes, tomatoes. I also picked up a half-bushel of tomatoes for canning sauce. 
Most of the time those grape tomatoes don't make it to the dinner table- they're perfect for snacking! But if you do have a hankering to cook some, here's a simple recipe:
Hot Herbed Tomatoes
From Kathy’s recipe box
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
3/4 cup soft breadcrumbs
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons minced onion
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons minced parsely
1 large clove garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place tomatoes in a single layer in a 9x13-inch pan. Combine remaining ingredients except olive oil and sprinkle over tomatoes. Drizzle olive oil over all. Bake 6 to 8 minutes.

And a simple way to make zucchini look fancy:
Zucchini "Pasta"
2 medium zucchini
2 medium carrots
1 medium onion
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zucchini and carrots all the way through, turning the vegetable as you do so to make long peels. Toss the carrot peels and zucchini peels together. Cut the onion in half and then cut it into strips. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet until hot and add the onion. Lower the heat and cook until soft and beginning to brown. Add in the carrots and zucchini and toss well. Continue to cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender but not mushy, about 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Cheers!

Friday, August 6, 2010

What To Do With It All-- Mid August Recipes


After a fun, educational trip to New Hampshire farms and a few very hot, humid days, I'm looking forward to the weekend and trying some more (dare I say it?) zucchini recipes this week. Zucchini Pickles and Vegetarian Chili will be involved.

The following recipes can be used for the menus in the last blog. Some are everyday meals, and one meal made up entirely of appetizers (great for 'dinner and a movie', or eating on the deck/patio).


Crab Cakes with Chile Cream Sauce
These cakes can be made smaller and served as appetizers. They freeze quite well, making them a great meal for entertaining or for a weeknight meal. 
Four 6-ounce cans lump crabmeat (1-1/2 lbs)
1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup panko crumbs
5 tablespoons mayonnaise
1-2 scallions or 1 small onion, very finely minced
1 small clove garlic, very finely minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup flour
2-3 eggs
oil for frying
1. Drain the crabmeat well and combine with the 1/2- cup breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, scallions or onion, garlic, mustard, hot sauce and salt and pepper. Using a 1/3-cup measure, shape into about 16 cakes, 1/2 inch thick.
2. Lightly beat the eggs. Set up a breading station with the flour, beaten eggs, and panko crumbs. Dredge the cakes in the flour; dip in the eggs and then the panko. Place on a baking sheet and repeat with remaining cakes.
3. Heat about 1 inch of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry cakes until nicely browned and crisp, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove to paper-towel lined sheet. Repeat with remaining cakes.
4. At this point the cakes can be frozen. To serve, defrost in the refrigerator over night and reheat in a 400-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes. They can be held in a 325-degree oven. Serve with Chile Cream Sauce.
Chile Cream Sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Combine all ingredients and refrigerate overnight. Check for salt and pepper and serve with the crab cakes.

Coleslaw with Creamy Feta Dressing
Pre-salting the cabbage prevents it from becoming watery after a day in the fridge. 
1/2 large head of cabbage- about 1-1/2 pounds
1 large or 2 small carrots
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped (optional0
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Finely shred the cabbage (I rarely use a food processor to shred or grate, but for this I get better results using the slicing disk in the food processor). Grate the carrot. Place in a large colander and sprinkle the kosher salt over all. Toss well to combine, and then place over a bowl to drain for about an hour and a half, until the cabbage is beginning to wilt. Rinse very well and dry with paper towels or in a salad spinner.
2. Stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt, white vinegar and feta. Add to the cabbage mixture and combine thoroughly. Sprinkle on the oregano and season with freshly ground black pepper.

Corn Pudding
This is a very versatile recipe. You can add a cup of grated cheese, or some fresh herbs), or finely minced hot or sweet peppers, chili powder, or old bay seasoning—all of these will give the pudding character. But I love it plain, with just the honest taste of fresh corn.
2 cups fresh corn kernels (this can be leftover corn on the cob, or kernels cut from uncooked corn, providing the corn is very fresh)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups milk
2 Tablespoons butter (you can use bacon fat)
1 small onion (you can substitute scallions or red onion, or leave it out and add 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives)
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper.
Butter, as needed, for the baking pan
1. Peel and chop the onion. Melt the butter in a small skillet and sauté over low heat just until the onion begins to soften. Butter a 1-1/2 quart soufflé dish or casserole. Preheat the oven to 325. Have ready a baking pan big enough to fit the casserole in, surrounded by water.
2. Combine all the ingredients and pour into the greased pan. Place in a baking pan and put in the oven. Pour in enough hot water to go halfway up the casserole. Bake for about an hour, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Deviled Eggs Four Ways
I love devilled eggs! They are an inexpensive and fast appetizer or snack that can be put together with a minimum of time and ingredients. 
Traditional Deviled Eggs
6 hard cooked eggs
2 heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
paprika
Guacamole Eggs
6 hard cooked eggs
1/2 ripe avocado, mashed
2 Tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
Curried Eggs
6 hard cooked eggs
2 heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon sweet curry powder
1/4 teaspoon hot curry powder
1 Tablespoon minced chives
Chili Deviled Eggs
6 hard cooked eggs
2 heaping Tablespoons of mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 Tablespoon minced cilantro
1/4 teaspoon mashed garlic

Peel the eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and place in a bowl. Smash them with a fork and mix in the remaining ingredients. Carefully spoon the yolk mixture into the hole in the egg white where the yolk had been.  Sprinkle with paprika for Traditional egg; garnish with cilantro leaves for Guacamole eggs, and chives for curried eggs.

Pierogies
When I was teaching recreational classes, one class was devoted to 'stuffed things'-- egg rolls, calzones, empanadas, turnovers-- you get the idea. Students were invariably surprised by how much they loved these little pockets of yumminess.
Dough:
3 cups flour
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm milk
3 Tablespoons sour cream
Combine all ingredients. Knead well into a soft, pliable dough.
Filling:
1 small cabbage, about 1 pound
3 Tablespoons butter
1 medium zucchini
1 small onion
1 teaspoon fresh dill, or 1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1. Finely grate the cabbage and zucchini. Chop the onion. Fill a large pot of water and add the cabbage. Simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Heat the butter in a large heavy skillet and sauté the zucchini and onion until soft.
2. Drain the cabbage and add to the skillet with the zucchini and onion. Cook over low heat, stirring, until most of the moisture has evaporated, perhaps another 10 to 20 minutes. Keep the heat low, keeping careful not to scorch the mixture. Add the dill or dill weed. Place in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times until it is finely chopped. Squeeze out any remaining moisture.
3. Roll out the dough thinly and cut into 4-inch circles. Place 2 teaspoons of filling on one half of the circle. Dip your finger in water and apply water around the rim of the circle. Fold over the dough and press to close. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
4. Bring a pot of water to boil and carefully place about 7 or 8 pierogies in the water. They will sink, and when they rise up to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon. Repeat with remaining pierogies.
5. Serve warm with sour cream (chopped chives or dill in the sour cream is a nice touch). Or you can sauté the cooked pierogies in butter and serve with sautéed onions.

Cheers!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Humbled Chef


CSA shares can be humbling. Every week I lose a little bit of control. While I've embraced the fact that I'm just not going to be choosing my produce each week, and that until I know what will be harvested, I don't know what I'm going to be cooking. . .I can't plan-- and a lot of what I do for a living is plan what is going to get cooked. As all of us who have chosen to cook seasonally, the challenge is to be flexible and creative with the food. Because, truly, there's only so much zucchini sauteed with garlic you can eat. And sometimes I feel overwhelmed and humbled by the zucchini.

Last week we got corn, potatoes, zucchini, garlic, tomatoes, beets and tomatoes.
This week, we are going to enjoy (I swear) more zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, cherry peppers, onion, kale and a dozen farm fresh eggs (have I mentioned how much I love fresh eggs?). And I bought a pint of grape tomatoes and some Brazilian eggplant at the farm stand with my farm credit.
This week's menus will include:
I. Crab Cakes (using the eggs, onion, garlic)
Coleslaw with Creamy Feta Dressing
Zucchini Cheese Biscuits
II. Oven Fried Chicken 
Corn Pudding
Simple Chopped Salad (Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Carrots, Zucchini)
III. Appetizer Night:
Pierogies (Cabbage, Zucchini, Onion)
BBQ Chicken Wings
Deviled Eggs 3-Ways
Bruschetta (Tomatoes, Garlic, Peppers)
Caprese Salad (Tomatoes, fresh Basil)
IV. Grilled Burgers or Steak
Zucchini Pickles
Corn on the Cob
I canned a batch of Zucchini Corn Relish today. At some point in the winter it will be a great reminder of summer flavors. Next canning session will be herb jellies.
Tomorrow I head up to New Hampshire to visit farms. When I come back, all of these recipes will be posted.
Happy Zucchini!


Sunday, August 1, 2010

ZUCCHINI RECIPES!


Zucchini Corn Relish
This recipe can be adjusted using more or less of each of the vegetables, making sure that the total quantity is the same. It will mellow over time, and is great after about 6 weeks.
4 cups finely chopped zucchini
2 cups finely chopped celery
2 cups corn kernels
1 finely chopped green bell pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 cherry pepper, seeded and chopped
6 cups warm (not hot)water
1/4 cup kosher salt
3 cups white vinegar
5 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons mustard seed
2 Tablespoons pickling spice *
1 Tablespoon turmeric
* you can make your own or buy pickling spice in the spice section at the store
  1. Combine the chopped vegetables and place in large bow. Dissolve the salt in the water and pour over the vegetables. Stir. Place a plate over the vegetables to make sure they stay submerged. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight. 
  2. Drain the vegetables and press them down to make sure you remove as much of the salt water as possible. Combine the remaining ingredients in a very large pot and add the drained vegetables. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and either cool and refrigerate or can.
  3. To can: add the hot relish to sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/2-inch space on top. Place clean canning lids over top and affix with canning lids. Place in boiling water to cover and boil for 10 minutes. Let cool without moving for a day. Check the seal to make sure it is secure by pushing slightly on the lid. It should not move or bounce at all. If it does, store in the refrigerator. If not, you can store it at room temperature.
Zuchini Cheese Biscuits
These actually freeze well. Reheat, wrapped in foil, at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes and serve hot.
2 c all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
4 T cold butter
1/4 c grated zucchini
1 Tablespoon finely chopped herbs, such as chives, thyme, parsley or thyme (or any combination)
1/2 c grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4-1 cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. 
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Cut in the butter until it resembles small peas. Toss in the zuchini and cheddar. Add 3/4 cup buttermilk and stir to mix. If the mixture is too dry to form a ball, add more, a tablespoon at a time, until you can form a ball. 
  3. Pat out to about 1/2” thickness and cut into 3” circles or squares. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake about 9 minutes.
Kathleen’s Zucchini Bread
I don’t know if I should call this “St. Joseph Hospital Zucchini Bread--the recipe was in my sister Kathy’s recipe box, written on a St. Joseph Progress Record (Kathy was a nurse). Nevertheless, I got it from her so…I fooled around with it a bit for a healthier version, below.
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4- teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped nuts or raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt pan or other tube cake pan, or two 8-1/2-inch loaf pans.
2. Combine the eggs, vanilla, sugar and oil in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine the baking powder, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add to the egg mixture and stir just until the dry mixture is incorporated. Gently fold in the grated zucchini and nuts or raisins, if using.
3. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean.
Lower Fat and Sugar Variation
• Use just 2 eggs plus one egg white instead of 3 eggs
• Replace the 2 cups of white sugar to just one cup of brown sugar
• Reduce the amount of oil to 1/2 cup and add 1/2 cup applesauce
• Replace 1/2 cup of grated zucchini with one grated apple
Mix and bake the same as above, adding the applesauce in with the wet ingredients, and folding in the apple with the zucchini.
Marinated Zucchini Salad
I have a lot of mint in my garden, but this works just as well with fresh basil or thyme.
4 medium zucchini
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh mint or basil (if using fresh thyme, reduce the amount to 1 Tablespoon) plus extra for garnish
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Wash and trim the zucchini and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Pat dry. Heat half of the oil in a heavy skillet and fry the slices in batches until they become soft and the edges are beginning to brown.  Place in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  2. Heat the remaining oil and the vinegar in the pan. Add the herbs and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour over the zucchini and let marinate for an hour or so. Serve at room temperature, garnishe with fresh herbs.




Friday, July 30, 2010

Ever So Much Zucchini!


This is the time of year when CSA members are looking at yellow and green summer squash (aka zucchini) with a certain element of disdain. You can saute it, and grill it, and eat it raw, and bread and fry it-- but you can also get a little sick of it.
Zucchini and yellow squash don't store very well for any length of time. Don't wash them before refrigerating, and don't put anything heavy on top of them- then they can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week.
If you have more zucchini than you can (or want to) eat right away, you've got a few options:

  1. Slice it and cook it in boiling water for just 2 to 4 minutes (2 minutes for 1/4-inch thick slices, longer if the slices are thicker) and then plunge into ice water to stop it from cooking any more. Drain and store in freezer bags in the freezer for up to 9 months. It will have a softer texture, but can be sauteed with tomatoes, onion and garlic and served as a side dish, or added to sauces.
  2. Grate it and add it to muffins, breads, or pancakes, all of which can be enjoyed right away or frozen.
  3. Make Zucchini Pickles or Relish (recipes to follow in tomorrow's blog) and preserve them in cans or simply store in the refrigerator and use within the next few weeks.
  4. Put them into casseroles (Zucchini Parmesan or Vegetable Lasagna, for example) or cook them into sauces and freeze the casseroles and sauces for a little taste of summer during the winter months.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fat Rooster Farm- AKA "Birdland"

Fat Rooster Farm's 'Birdland'

I met a calm peacock at Fat Rooster Farm in South Royalton, VT. I've never met a peacock that was so, well- downright friendly! He strolled up to me, looked at me, and then went on his way. My previous experience with peacocks has been watching them standing behind some kind of fence, running away when a crowd comes close. Not so at Fat Rooster. The wandering peacock was joined by a wandering rooster- a small black rooster that looks like it should be painted on some sort of crockery, or sitting atop a weather vane. I learned that this particular rooster was the owner's pet, and lived indoors in the winter. These two birds are a tribute to the stress-free environment provided to them at this farm.
View from the house
Fat Rooster Farm offers 'pasteurized poultry' along with lamb and vegetables. The birds hang out in a hollow on the property, called, aptly enough, Birdland. I visited Fat Rooster on slaughter day-- missing the slaughtering by minutes (ah, nuts!). Jennifer Megyesi, who runs the farm and owns it with her husband, Kyle Jones, was then able to spend some time with me. Jennifer and Kyle have turkeys, chickens and lambs, and provide produce primarily to retail markets and farm stands as well as a small group of CSA members. Their farm is beautiful in a bucolic way-- from the house on a hill you can see the vegetable fields to the left and 'Birdland' to the right. Lovely.
Back in Connecticut, my 8th share of the summer included eggs, corn, zucchini, cucumbers, small eggplants, carrots, green beans, grape tomatoes, green peppers and onions.
The cucumbers, green beans and tomatoes need to be eaten first before they'll spoil, but otherwise this group of vegetables required little preparation for storage.
Curry Roast Corn and Eggplant
Roasted Vegetable Pizza
Zucchini and Corn Salad
Simple Salad

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Farm-alicious Week!

I have had a truly farm-alicious week, starting with Open Farm Day at Stone Gardens Farm, and ending with visiting four farms in Vermont (in 2 days!).

On Sunday, Fred and Stacia took a group of their CSA members on a tour of the fields and then back to the homestead to see the cows, chickens and turkeys (and nibble on some plums and raspberries as we passed the plum trees and raspberry patch). I learned more about IPM (Integrated Pest Management), how frequently the crops are planted and harvested, how they choose what to include in the CSA shares each week, and that I really do not enjoy the aroma in chicken coops.

On Wednesday I found Farmer Rachel Nevitt of Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg, Vermont, picking cucumbers with her two apprentices. She continued to pick while we talked, taking a 'teaching moment' with the apprentices to describe how to tell when a cucumber is ready to be picked. Her husband, Farmer David Zuckerman, arrived later to pitch in as they went on to harvest beans.  Rachel and David are passionate about organic gardening and honoring the land. This is evident in their straight, well-weeded rows of vegetables that managed to look luscious during a particularly long dry spell in Hinesburg. Later that day I went back to Full Moon with my friends and Full Moon CSA members, John and Jean Kiedaisch (and 2 year old grandson Jack, who gleefully sat on tractors while Jean and I were in the barn) to see the pick-up end of the process. In the cool of the barn, members chose from a selection written on a whiteboard. Among the offerings this week were fennel, potatoes, cucumbers, beans, beets, bunching onions and radishes.
David and Rachel are intelligent, thoughtful farmers with big dreams and high expectations. They have set their bar high, and seem to be reaching it. I thank them for their time and generosity-- they are truly awesome.

Cucumbers, beans, cabbage and potatoes were also being harvested here in Connecticut! We also got our first ears of corn, and continue to see kale, kohlrabi and zucchini in our boxes. So, here we go:

Connecticut Summer Nicoise
Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients -- this is really quite simple to make, and celebrates the best of southern New England!
For the Salad
1 pound green or yellow beans
1 pound potatoes, preferably new ('waxy')
1 Tablespoon oil
1 onion
1 clove garlic
2 dozen fresh clams
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth, or dry white wine
1 large ripe tomato
1 head butter lettuce
4 hard cooked eggs (optional)
1 cup Greek olives
For the dressing:
1 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons champagne vinegar or other white vinegar
2 Tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup canola, or other light oil
1 Tablespoon fresh basil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put a pot of water on to boil. Trim the stem ends of the beans and place in the boiling water. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and plunge into a pot of ice water to stop them from cooking.
Scrub the potatoes and place in a pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until you can easily pierce them with a fork. Drain and run under cold water. When cool, slice into 1/4-inch  thick slices.
Scrub the clams. Peel and dice the onion and garlic. Heat the oil in a deep skillet and saute the onion and garlic until soft. Add the clams and broth or wine and cover the pan. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes until the clams open. Remove from the pan and, when cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells, discarding any clams that did not open. Increase the heat to high and boil the cooking liquid vigorously until slightly thickened. Strain through cheesecloth. 
Make the dressing: Peel and mince the garlic and finely chop the basil. Whisk together the garlic, mustard and vinegar. Add the olive oil and whisk until well combined. Slowly add the remaining oil, whisking continuously until thickened. Stir in the basil.
Place 1/4 cup of the reduced clam broth in a bowl with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette. Add the clams, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Toss the beans with 2 Tablespoons of the dressing. Toss the sliced potatoes with 1 Tablespoon of the dressing. Wash and dry the lettuce leaves and cut the tomato into wedges. If using hard cooked eggs, cut into wedges. Line a serving platter with lettuce leaves. Place the dressed beans in the center of the platter. Surround the beans with the potato slices and tomato and egg wedges. Spoon the clams over the beans and scatter the olives over all. 
Marinated Yellow Beans and Kohlrabi
This is a very versatile recipe. Substitute zucchini for the beans; radishes, salad turnips or Jerusalem artichokes for the kohlrabi, or any other firm, seasonal vegetable.
2 kohlrabi bulbs
1 pound green or yellow beans
1 small, fresh jalapeno
1/2 bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic
2 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil, or 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup vegetable oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Peel the kohlrabi and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch discs. Turn over and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips. Trim the stems ends off the beans. Cut the pepper in half lengthwise and carefully remove the veins and seeds (you might want to wear gloves for this). Mince finely. Cut the thick stems off the cilantro and chop the leaves and remaining tender stems. Peel the garlic and mince. Juice the lemons. 
Place the kohlrabi strips in the boiling water and cook 5 minutes. Add the beans and cook an additional 3 minutes. Drain and run cold water over them. Combine the jalapeno, cilantro, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place the vegetables in a shallow bowl and pour the dressing over them. Toss to coat all the vegetables in the marinade. Let this sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Toss again, taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve or refrigerate until serving. This can be served cold or at room temperature.
Summer Vegetable Ragu with Polenta
Don't be afraid to substitute vegetables depending on what's available. Eggplant, carrots, or swiss chard would all work in this dish.
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
1/2 head cabbage or 1 bunch kale
1 medium (about 10-inch) or 2 small zucchini
3 cloves garlic
1 pound ground meat (beef, pork, turkey)
1 (28 ounce) can plum tomatoes or 10-12 medium tomatoes
2 Tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 Tablespoon minced fresh oregano or marjoram
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Slice the onion into strips. Core the cabbage or de-stem the kale and chop finely. Cut the ends of the zucchini off and cut lengthwise into planks, then strips. Cut each strip into 1" pieces. Mince the garlic. If using fresh tomatoes, cut them in half crosswise, squeeze out the seeds and dice into 1/4-inch pieces. If using canned tomatoes, drain and chop.
Heat the oil in a heavy pan and add the onion and cabbage or kale. Cook over medium-low heat until soft. Add the zucchini and garlic and raise the heat to medium. Cook until the zucchini is tender. Remove the vegetables from the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the ground meat and brown, breaking down into small pieces as it cooks. Add the vegetables and tomatoes and lower the heat to very low. Cook for 30 minutes or longer, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, make the polenta (recipe below). Add the fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper. Serve spooned over the polenta, with freshly grated cheese.
Polenta
1 cup dry polenta or cornmeal
3 cups water 
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Bring the water and salt to a boil. Sprinkle the cornmeal into the boiling water, stirring constantly. Cook until the polenta begins to leave the sides of the pot. Add the cheese and stir.

Have a great week!
Visit Farmer Rachel and Farmer David at Full Moon Farm at: http://www.fullmoonfarminc.com/