Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Roasted Root Pizza and Pasta

Pizza and Pasta are not only the perfect holders for almost anything, they quite easily hold the very same things. And they hold them in ways that kids love, or at least that make it easy to pick back out the things that kids don’t love. Add to this my newfound refrigerator pizza dough method and my newfound pre-roasting plan, and either are ready in 30-60 minutes with only about 10 of those minutes necessarily involving actual work. Ok, at some point you need to take the time to make the sauce, to roast and sauté the toppings, but it doesn’t have to be just before you eat! These combinations balance sweet and salty to perfection using what was last plentiful when there was plentiful to be had (maybe, you had a lot of it then and you roasted and froze it already, maybe you have some saved in a root cellar, maybe you got a winter share at your CSA, or maybe you can find at least some of this still at Sherman Market who keeps getting deliveries from local farms with root cellars and greenhouses): winter squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, arugula, and swiss chard.

So here’s the method:

1. When you have time, roast the squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, and eggplant.  Refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for 3-6 months.

Peel and cut into ½” slices or cubes. Toss with olive oil and salt. Spread in a single layer on a cookie pan. Roast at 350 until soft all the way through, about 30 minutes. Cool and refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 3 months.

2. When you have time, caramelize onions. Slice one or more onion in half and then into 1/8-1/4” slices. Heat 1-2 T olive oil. Sauté the onions on medium-high heat until they become translucent and just barely begin to brown. Turn the heat down to very low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions become a sweet soft brown pile, at least 30 minutes and ideally more like an hour. Cool and refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 3 months.
3. When you have time, make pesto and tomato sauce. Refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for 3-6 months.

4. 1-38 hours before you want to eat, make your favorite pizza crust, but rather than letting it rise for 30-60 minutes on the counter, put it into the fridge where it will rise much more slowly for 6-38 hours. Remove the dough from the fridge 1 hour before you want to eat. Let it sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes, then flatten on an oiled cookie pan and let rise for 30 minutes. Brush with olive oil, cover with toppings and bake at 400 for about 10 minutes.

OR

Boil your favorite kind of pasta until very al dente, drain not quite completely, retaining about ½ cup hot liquid. Return to pot, toss in desired combination of toppings and 1-2 T butter or olive oil and cook for 3-5 minutes or until everything is heated through. Serve with grated parmesan or romano cheese

Topping/add in combos. These are the same for pizza or for pasta. When it’s pizza, start with a layer of pesto or red sauce, followed by a layer of grated mozzarella, and then throw on the toppings. When it’s pasta, use cubes or cut slices into strips, and top with grated romano or parmesan cheese.

1. Roasted squash, sautéed mushrooms (slice thinly and sauté on medium heat with olive oil and salt for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally), and caramelized onions.

2. Roasted sweet potatoes and caramelized onions and then after cooking but while it’s still hot as can be sprinkle with arugula or thinly sliced swiss chard which will wilt to perfection.

3. Roasted carrots, roasted beets, and crumbled goat or feta cheese.

4. Roasted eggplant, roasted tomatoes, and caramelized onions

5. Roasted tomatoes and caramelized onions, and then after cooking but while it’s still hot as can be sprinkle with arugula or thinly sliced swiss chard which will wilt to perfection

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Breaking Points and Breaks

Most days, no matter how much is going on, I relish standing in the kitchen for however many minutes I have, stirring and pouring, watching a meal emerge from piles of carefully selected ingredients or from the scraps at the bottom of the refrigerator.  There is something concrete and fleeting about making a meal that grounds the end of each day for me.  But then, every once in a while, dinner time approaches, and I head for the door, not because I have any wonderful plans to dine out, but just because I can't stand the idea of having to cook something.  The next day, invariably, I can't wait to hit the kitchen again.  The breaks, I'm convinced, keep me from reaching a breaking point.  Recently, this pattern spilled over into writing about food.  In fact, it jumped ship.  I've been cooking quite happily actually for the past month, but barely writing down a thing.  And I thought, oh, what a treat to just cook and then leave the meal, gone, in bellies and down drains.  How wonderful to not think about exactly what dash of this or extra time on that made it so good.  I had my break.  Now I can't wait to write more.  I'm not going to return to that set of meals; they belong to the ephemera.  But new meals do emerge each night. 

Winter just calls out for roasting.  Images of a georgeous standing rib roast got me through the cold and into Whole Foods, but the only local beef roasts they had were a Top Round and a Chuck Roast.  The butcher recommended the Chuck Roast.  I thought: "great, roasted hamburger meat.  Oh well, I'll feel virtuous."  It's one of the best roasts I've had.  Rich and tender with still enough sinew to look and feel like real beef.  And the flavor, well, maybe that comes from how we cooked it.

Chuck Roast 
serves 4-6

3 lb Chuck Roast
3 T coarse sea salt
2 T pepper corns
1 T rosemary
2 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 350.  In a mortar and pestle, grind the salt, pepper corns, and rosemary until almost all of the peppercorns are cracked, but most are still in large chunks.  Rub well all over roast.  In an oven-ready pan, brown the roast in the olive oil.  Transfer to oven an bake approximately 1 1/2 hours. 


Diane made these whipped sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving and told me about them.  I'm not sure how faithfully I recreated it, but the little spark of citrus, however much and in whatever form, brings out a whole new side of the sweet potato.

Diane's Citrus Whipped Sweet Potatoes
serves 4-6

6 small-medium sweet potatoes
1/8 cup cointreau
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt

Bake the sweet potatoes until very soft, 1-1 1/2 hours.  Peel sweet potatoes and whip, using a hand-held mixer on medium, with other ingredients.


This meal allows for a lot of time hanging out in a warm kitchen.  Renee's cocktail is light in a way that opens up the appettite, and warm in a way that fits perfectly with the season.

Renee's Ginger Lemongrass Opener

1/4 cup (2 oz.) ginger vodka
1/8 cup lemongrass water
1/2 tsp. simple syrup
1 dash angostura bitters

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mulled Wine

A year ago I took a trip to Austria and Germany, cruising down the Danube, to visit the Christmas markets with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and aunt-in-law. Many of you may cringe at the thought of that trip, but then, you didn't have the good fortune to marry into the Scott family. On this wonderful trip, we discovered mulled wine, and while usually the wine tasted pretty similar from one town to another, in one particular place (I will venture to say Linz, Austria, but please don't hold me to it), it was outstanding. Here, they offered fresh raspberries as an addition. It was the best thing I tasted on the trip, though that's damning with faint praise as the food was mediocre. Regardless, it was delicious, and today, after an afternoon of driving across town multiple times on a few wild goose chases, I suddenly remembered this sweet holiday drink and did my best to recreate it.

Mulled Red Wine with Fresh Raspberries

makes 3 large or 4 medium servings

1 bottle red wine (it can be inexpensive)
2/3 to 3/4 cup white sugar, depending on your sweet tooth (I used 2/3 and it was gently sweet, not cloying)
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange or clementine peel, broken into a few pieces
5 or 6 whole cloves
12 to 15 fresh raspberries

Heat all ingredients except berries in a sauce pan over low heat until hot, ~ 15 to 20 minutes.

Put berries in 3 or 4 mugs and pour wine mixture into mugs. I poured the mulling spices into the mugs, too, though you could strain it. Dave made a nice cocktail with his dregs, shaking the berries and spices with vodka and ice.

Variations: use honey instead of sugar (add slowly until sweetness is right for you); use previously frozen berries

Monday, November 8, 2010

Roasted Chicken and Squash Soup

A recent issue of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food had a whole section on soups made out of pre-roasted vegetables.  I wondered, is it really worth the effort?  Isn't one of the things I love about soup that you can do it all in one pot, in a very few steps?  But then I happened to have in the fridge both leftover roasted chicken, and leftover roasted squash, so I threw them together along with a few other things and discovered, oh yes, as usual, Martha knows what's good.  She has a recipe for a roasted chicken and squash soup too, but hers is creamy and has quite different ingredients beyond the chicken and squash.  I might try it some day, but it'll be a long time before I'm tired of this one!

The chicken and squash can be roasted up to several days in advance.  The actual soup cooking on this is super fast.

Roasted Chicken and Squash Soup
Serves 4

6 cups stock
3 leeks, sliced into 1/4" rounds
1 butternut squash, peeled, cubed, and roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper until very tender and beginning to brown (30-45 minutes at 350)
1 chicken leg, roasted with salt and pepper (30-45 minutes at 350)
1 bunch swiss chard, chopped
1 T olive oil

Saute the leeks in the olive oil until the begin to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Add the chicken and squash and return to a boil.  Add the swiss chard and simmer 10 minutes.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Oysters and crab have a long season in New England (the Island Creek Oyster Festival was the second week of September this year), and they are always delicious. 

The last time I bought raw oysters for home serving, I asked about shucking them myself and man behind the counter (somewhere near Haymarket) expressed such doubt about whether I possessed sufficient strength that there was no way I was not going to do it.  By the time I finished, I was so tired and cut up that I could barely enjoy the oysters.  That was about ten years ago.  And the memory didn't fully come back until I was sitting in front of a dozen closed oysters, a shucking knife in one hand and a thick towel in the other.  Luckily, either I've gotten a lot stronger or the Island Creek Oysters from New Deal Fish Market were much more ready to be cracked.  It was pretty easy to find the sweet spot at the small end of the shell, it took a little elbow grease but nothing impossible to stick in the shucking knife, and then it was easy to turn the knife counter-clockwise and lift off the top shell.  I even managed to save most of the prescious salt water in each shell.  I'm not sure if it's the oysters themselves or something in the preparation, but these didn't have a grain of salt, were the perfect balance of sweet and salty, and were so tender that anyone who doesn't love to turn a raw oyster once, whole, on tonge and then let it slip gently toward back of mouth and down throat, could just bite right into it.  The perfect enhancer to such delicate delights is the traditional French oyster sauce: shallots and vinegar.

For one dozen oysters, mince 1 shallot.  Stir with 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar, and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Jonah Crabs are fairly common across New England.  The meat is delicate and sweet, but the shell can be very very hard.  But of course a good fishmonger knows this and sells the meat already pried out.  And a few cups of crab meat chunks just beg to be cooked into a rich bisque.  This matches the sweetness of the meat with a similar tone in corn and onion, balanced with a nice cayenne kick in the broth.  The corn biscuits use the rendered fat from the bacon that goes into the soup, and are perfect for dipping, calming the firey tongue, and just generally nibbling on.

Crab Bisque
2 lbs small potatoes, sliced into 1/4" rounds (skins can stay on)
4 cups stock of any variety
4 thick slices bacon, cut into 1" pieces.
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 cups crab meat
1 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cup milk, cream, or 1/2 and 1/2
1 large onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T oil
paprika
cayenne
thyme

Cook bacon until just beginning to become crispy.  Bring stock to a boil.  Add potatoes and cook until tender. Add corn to bacon and cook until tender.  Lift bacon and corn out of pan with a slotted spoon, reserving fat for biscuits (below), and add to stick.  Add crab meat, salt, pepper, and milk or cream.  Bring to a low simmer.  Saute onion and garlic in oil until browning and just beginning to caramelize, about 15 minutes, and add to bisque.  Add in a dash of paprika, cayenne, and thyme.

Corn Biscuits
Mix:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Cut in 2 T butter (slice butter into thin pats and drop into flour, then mix in with a pastry cutter or with two butter knives cutting across and against each other, until the butter is cut into about pea-sized pieces and spread throughout the flour mixture).

In a separate bowl, mix:
2 eggs
3 T bacon fat
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

Mix wet ingredients into dry.  Plop dollops of about 1/3 cup each into a cookie sheet.  Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes.

Dressed Broccoli

A few vegetables actually thrive in the colder part of Fall.  Broccoli and cabbage seem to get sweeter at the end of the season, or maybe I'm just starting to cling to whatever remains plentiful at the last few farmers' markets.  It's a perfect time for broccoli soup, but simple steamed broccoli takes on a Fall heartiness when dressed with this lovely sauce.

Serves 4 as a side

Broccoli
Cut 2-3 heads broccoli.  Break florets into small pieces; peel stalks and cut into 1/2" rounds.  Steam until just tender.

Dressing
Saute
2 T minced ginger
1 1/2 T minced garlic
in 2 T vegetable oil and 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil until light brown .
Add 3 T soy sauce and 1 T lemon juice.  Pour over steamed broccoli.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A New Guest Brings a New Cocktail: Aren't We Lucky!

This past Whatever Night Dinner Club dinner brought a new guest, Renée's sister, Amy. And she brought with her the fixings for a lavender cocktail. It went well with our lamb and salad and roasted veggie risotto, though it probably would have accompanied most dishes nicely. It is a perfect pink color.

Lavender Vodka

3 hours (or longer) prior to drinking, soak 3 TBSP lavender flowers in 750 ml vodka. Let sit 3 hours. Strain  out flowers (they can be reused to make more of the vodka).

Lemon Syrup

mix:
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup simple syrup
1/4 cup water

Lavender Cocktail

this makes 4 single-sized cocktails. Or 2 doubles. That's good math.

In a shaker add:

1 cup lavender vodka
1/4 cup lemon syrup

Top with ice and shake until cold. Strain into 4 single-sized, chilled glasses.


Lamb Shoulder

Preheat oven to 350.

Topping

In a bowl mix all herbs (fresh if possible):
1 TBSP chopped rosemary
2 TBSP chopped mint
2 TBSP minced garlic
2 teas. chopped thyme
1/2 teas. salt
1/2 teas. pepper

Add 2 TBSP olive oil and the juice of 1/2 of a lemon. Mix well.

Salt and pepper 2 lbs. lamb shoulder chops.

Heat an oven-proof pan on the stove. Add 1 TBSP olive oil and sear chops on one side for 1 minute.
Turn over and cover chops with the rub. Put the pan in the oven and cook until done (~15 - 20 minutes), checking after 15 minutes.

Pressure Cooker Risotto

This recipe assumes familiarity with a pressure cooker. If you lack that, use ingredients to make a traditional risotto.

Saute 1 chopped onion, in 1 TBSP olive oil.
Add 1 smashed garlic clove and 2 cups arborio rice. Stir to coat.
Add 5 cups chicken broth and lock lid.
Bring to high pressure and cook for 4 minutes.
Slow release.

Open and stir in:
4 cups previously roasted veggies (make extra when cooking roasted roots or fries and save in the fridge for a few days or freeze until needed)
1 head chopped and wilted bok choy (saute in olive oil for a few minutes)
1 cup grated romano cheese

Spinach salad

Saute 4 oz. bacon cut into 1" pieces, reserving fat.

Meanwhile, add into a large bowl:
Cut 1 apple into quarters and then into 1/4" slices.
Thinly slice 1/2 cup assorted sweet peppers.
Rip 4 oz. spinach into bite-sized pieces.

Add bacon to bowl and toss salad with 1 TBSP of the bacon fat. Season with black pepper.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Squash Apple Soup

If you had to pick two items that are most plentiful this time of year in New England, you'd pick squash and apples. They are spilling out of my fruit bowls and taking up valuable counter space. I steam the squash and serve it with butter, and give the kids apples for snacks and make various baked items, but finally I'd had enough.

Squash and Apple Soup

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 squash, or ~ 6 to 8 cups, peeled and deseeded (seeds can be roasted for a yummy snack)
4 apples
2 densely packed cups raw spinach
cumin
salt
pepper
curry
paprika
cayenne pepper

Steam squash until starting to soften.

In a large pot, heat stock to near boiling. Add apples and steamed squash.

Cook for ~20 minutes, until apples and squash are falling apart when stuck with a fork. Add spinach.

Cook a few minutes more and then use an immersion blender to blend until completely smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, which I highly recommend for ease of blending hot things, blend in a blender or food processor, being very careful to not overfill because hot liquid expands and explodes when blended.

Add spices to taste.

Can be served with croutons or crusty bread, and a salad.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Traditional, Revisited

The other night, lacking any other ideas and needing to use some lovely bacon, we decided to make BLT sandwiches. They were ridiculously good as a photo would show, but, just as the shoemaker's children have no shoes, this blog has few photos, despite that the rest of my time when not parenting is happily taken up doing photography. Sorry. You'll just have to believe me. We followed it up with a nameless but noteworthy dessert.

Bacon, Pea Green, and Tomato Sandwiches with Pesto Aioli

serves 4 or 5 hungry adults

Spread 1 lb. bacon out on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 until done to your liking, ~ 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the pesto aioli.

Make the pesto. Blend the following in a blender until smooth:

1 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
3 TBSP walnuts
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teas. salt

Make the aioli. In a bowl, whisk one egg yolk until it is starting to lighten in color.

Add olive oil in a VERY thin stream, whisking very hard (if you have another person on hand, have one whisk and one drizzle oil), constantly until it is the consistency of mayonnaise. The amount of oil will vary depending on your idea of mayonnaise, but a very vague guideline is somewhere around 2 to 3 TBSP.

Stir the pesto into the aioli.

Next, heat a frying pan over medium heat. Thickly slice nice crusty bread. Add a TBSP of butter and a TBSP of olive oil. When hot but not smoking, fry each piece of bread on both side, until lightly browning. Add more butter and oil if needed for browning the rest of the bread.

Spread pesto aioli on one side of each slice of bread. Add bacon, pea greens (we miraculously got them from our CSA, bringing a touch of spring to an otherwise thoroughly fall day) or other greens, thickly sliced tomatoes, and a dash of ground black pepper. Top with other slice of bread.



Pudding Cups?

This dessert consists of cups made of pie crust, filled with chocolate, a light pudding, and fruit.

Crust

In a bowl, add 1 cup flour and a dash of salt.

Cut in 1 stick unsalted butter. Use your fingers to gently break the butter up until the mixture is the consistency of cornmeal. Do not over-mix.

Sprinkle in 3 TBSP ice cold water, gently mixing with your hands, until it sticks together.

Form into a disc and roll out into a circle that is approximately 12 to 14 inches in diameter.

Cut into 6 squarish sections and drape each of the six pieces over an upside-down popover tin or muffin tin, gently molding to form a cup shape.

Cook in a 375 degree oven until lightly browning, ~ 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool on the upside-down pan. When cool, gently remove and place upright on a serving platter.

In a double boiler, melt 1/2 cup of the chocolate of your choice (we did ~ 1/3 baker's unsweetened and 2/3 semi-sweet chocolate).

Drizzle the chocolate into the cups.

Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of milk with 1 stick of vanilla to a boil.

In a bowl mix the following:

3/4 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup flour
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg

Pour the boiling milk slowly into the flour mixture, whisking constantly. Return to the pan and, stirring constantly, bring back to a boil, then immediately turn it off. If it is at all curdly or lumpy, strain it. Let cool.

When cool, spoon pudding into the crust cups. Top with the fruit of your choice. We used thawed Maine blueberries. Yum!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Homemade Ravioli with Spicy Pumpkin and Mushroom-Squash fillings

Some things are worth making from scratch, and some things are not. But how do you tell which is which? The money I save is balanced by the time I spend baking my own bread, but then when I add in the baker’s triceps, the air freshener, and the warmth of the oven, it’s definitely worth baking my own bread Fall through Spring. But homemade pasta has always seemed to me really not a great investment. I hold some traumatic early memory of a rubbery, chewy glop that my mother spent hours mixing and rolling (no idea, mom, if that’s a real memory or something I invented), and fresh local “homemade” pasta is so readily available and reasonable priced at the Central Square Farmers’ Market and Capone’s that I just haven’t even really considered trying. Forget that a few years ago my mother gave me a wonderful, simple, hand-crank pasta maker and even led me through a ravioli-making session. All I remembered was that it was indeed more complicated than she’d said. But last week we made a pumpkin puree that brought back a much better memory - the creamy inside of a ravioli savored at kitchen table in Tuscany years ago, the rich Siena flavor cut just perfectly by tender dough and bright peals of laughter. The puree was way too rich as a side, but with a dash of cayenne and a wrapping of perfect homemade sheets, it was as good as my best memory.

Amy’s Basic Ravioli Dough

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
3 whole beaten large eggs
2 ½ tsp. cooking oil
½ c lukewarm water

Sift flour in large bowl, make a well in center and add salt, oil, eggs, and water. Mix liquid and flour gradually until absorbed. Place dough on floured board and knewad thoroughly for 3-5 minutes until dry and smooth (add more flour if dough is still sticky). Make into 8 balls, wrap in plastic wrap and set aside in fridge 30-60 minutes. After the dough is chilled, feed it through the sheet part of a pasta maker set at the thickest setting (1). Repeat, shifting up the setting each time, until the dough is one step away from becoming weak (that’s setting 7 on my pasta maker, but they do differ). After the first or second pass, it becomes difficult for one person to hold both the dough going in and the dough coming out of the pasta maker: this is definitely best done with a friend. When the pasta reaches the desired thickness, lay it flat on a lightly floured surface. Drop about a teaspoon of filling onto the bottom left corner of the dough. Cut the dough off with ½-1/4 inch left around the filling. Fold the dough in half over the filling, letting as little air as possible remain between the filling and the dough. Using the tips of your fingers, firmly close the dough around the filling. Repeat until you’ve gotten through the whole piece of dough, then roll out another and keep going. As the ravioli are filled, set aside on a lightly floured pan or counter. When they are all done, cook in batches of 12 or so 3-5 minutes in rapidly boiling water.

Spicy Pumpkin Filling

Peel, chop, and steam the flesh of one medium pumpkin or orange-fleshed winter squash. In a large bowl, mash with a potato masher. Add 1-2 sticks butter, ½-1 cup milk, 1-2 tsp. salt, ½ -1 cup grated parmesan, 1 tsp. pepper, dash nutmeg, and 1-2 tsp. cayenne and mash.

Squash and Mushroom Filling

Reconstitute 1 oz dry porcini mushrooms in 1 -1 ½ cups white wine. Cover and let sit 1 hour.

Cut a winter squash in half, seed, and turn cut-side down in a roasting pan with ¼-inch water. Roast at 350 for 40 minutes or until tender.

Remove cooked squash, scrape it out of the shell and mash until smooth.

In a frying pan, heat 1 T olive oil. and 1 T minced garlic. Remove mushrooms from wine (save wine), squeeze until dryish, coarsely chop, and add to pan. Then add ½ tsp. dried or 1 tsp, fresh chopped sage, ½ tsp. black pepper, ¼ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. butter. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Then add 1 T mushroom liquid and stir. Remove from pan and mix into squash.

Serve the ravioli with a tureen of mushroom sauce:

Make a roux : heat 2 T butter to melting, stir in 2 T flour and whisk. Add, whisking constantly, the reserved mushroom liquid, 2 T milk, salt, pepper, dried basil thyme, tarragon, and parsley. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in ¼ cup grated parmesan.

Serve with a fall greens salad (chickory, argula, etc.) with a sharp vinaigrette.

To round out the fall meal, finish with apple sauce upside down cake

In a pan, sauté:

1 T butter
1 cup peeled, thinly sliced apples
¼ cup sugar
1/8 cup rum
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix

1 cup apple sauce or apple butter
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup sugar
1 tsp rum
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup flour
1 cup apples peeled and cut into 1/3-1/2” cubes

Pour the sliced apple mixture into a bundt pan and spread evenly. Pour the batter over the sliced apple mixture. Bake at 375 for about 60 minutes.

Drizzle with homemade caramel just before serving

Melt ¼ cup demerara or white sugar until hot and bubbling. Drop in 3 T butter. Stir 30-45 seconds, until melted. Remove from heat and stir in ½ cup heavy cream.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Calamari With Spicy Dipping Sauce

We got gorgeous, local calamari from New Deal last week. It had been caught that day, and was the most tender, flavorful squid I have ever eaten.

2 lbs. calamari, tubes and tentacles
1 cup white flour
1 teas. salt
1 teas. pepper
1/2 teas. oregano
1/2 teas. thyme
olive oil
1 to 2 lemons, cut into wedges

Cut tubes into 3/4 to 1 inch thick slices.

Mix flour and spices together in a mixing bowl or paper bag.

Add calamari to bowl (or bag) and stir (or shake) until everything is well coated in flour. Add more flour if need be.

Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a frying or wide saute pan with 1/4 inch oil. When hot but not smoking, add enough calamari to cover bottom and cook for a few minutes, gently stirring once or twice to cook all sides. Remove to a serving platter. Cook remaining calamari this way, adding more oil as needed.

Squeeze lemon over the top and serve with the dipping sauce that follows.

Spicy Dipping Sauce

1 TBSP olive oil
3 cups chopped tomatoes
1 teas. diced jalepeño
1 TBSP garlic, minced
salt to taste

In a saute pan, heat oil. When hot but not smoking, add tomatoes, jalepeño and garlic and cook covered on medium-low, stirring frequently, until tomatoes break down, ~ 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully blend in a blender or food processor for a few seconds, remembering hot foods expand when blended, so keep top slightly ajar to release heat build-up. Blend until still chunky but mixed. Add salt.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Duck

If Renée and I find slaughtering chickens more useful than terrifying, what else might we kill? I was only half-joking when I suggested that on the way home from Vermont we stop in New Hampshire to buy a rifle. And I wasn’t joking at all when I asked my brother if he could set me up with his gun and some tin cans the next time I’m out in Colorado. So far, the closest any of this has gotten to home were the stories of pheasant hunting as a kid that Renée’s husband Dave told us when I revealed to him my fantasy of two women, three kids, and a dead deer trudging out of the New England woods on their way to racks of venison. Slowly conceding to reality, I agreed that the most likely thing I’ll ever shoot at is a duck, and the most likely way I’ll cook a duck in the near future is by buying one at the grocery store. But I’m not giving up my dreams – this is just a trial run for that fantastic fowl I’ll make drop from the sky one day.

ROAST DUCK
Rub a 3-4 pound duck with 1 garlic, sliced in half, 1 sliced hot pepper, and about 2 T tamari, in that order. Stuff with the garlic and one apple, quartered and stuck with 4-6 cloves per quarter. Set in a roasting pan and roast at 400-425 for about 1 hour, or until the meat reaches 170 degrees at the bone. Remove from oven, spread with plum sauce, and let sit about 10 minutes before carving.

While the bird is cooking, prepare the Plum Sauce

PLUM SAUCE
Bring to a boil 6 plums, halved and seeded, with 1/3 cup raspberry vinegar and ¼ cup sugar. Simmer on low until the duck is almost done. Strain the sauce, then stir in two shallots, which you have diced and sautéed until almost caramelized. Spread about half of the sauce over the duck, and put the rest in a gravy tureen to serve with the meal.

SAUTEED BABY BOK CHOY
While the bird is cooling, cook the baby bok choy. Heat a wok with 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil to very hot. Toss in 1 garlic clove, sliced thin, and about 1” of ginger, peeled and sliced thin or cut into matchsticks. Toss for about 1 minute. Then add in 4 heads of baby bok choy (cut off bottom of stem to separate leaves, rinse, and dry partially first) and 1 T tamari. Toss frequently for about 3 minutes, or until bok choy just starts to wilt.

Serve with rice.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fall Chicken Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad is just about the least informative name a dish could have, second maybe to Soup or, if you're in Minnesota, Hot Dish.  "Pasta," kind of like "broth" can hold just about anything, gently creadle its flavors, and deliver them to youin fantastic--or just kind of average--combination.  So what distinguishes a great pasta salad?  First, of course, it's one that uses local and seasonal ingredients.  Things that grow together naturally taste good together, if you follow a few basic rules of common sense.  That's why I think of the main distinguishing factor in a pasta salad name to be its season.  Second, the pasta must be cooked just to al dente, and then just after it's drained either rinsed in cold water or tossed with a little olive oil, or both.  It doesn't matter much what kind of pasta you use, though spaghetti, linguini, and angel hair are pretty much out.  And third, it contains the right balance of flavors, colors, and textures.  For this, I have a basic set of categories to draw from.  The key is to get at least one but not more than two things from each category.  A pasta salad CAN get overloaded, so if you use for example red pepper as your crunchy, count it also as one of your reds.  After you've prepped everything, toss it together with the pasta and douse it with a good amount (two-three times what you'd use for a regular salad of the same size) of vinaigrette.  You can serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days. 

1) Protein- pasta salad tastes great without a protein, but it fills you up and doesn't really satisfy.  Good in the Fall Pasta Salad are
          cold chopped chicken
          cubed hard salami
          feta cheese
          garbanzo beans

2)  Something crunchy
          raw corn, sliced off the ear
          raw red pepper, diced
          raw red onion, diced
          raw green beans, chopped
          raw carrotts, chopped
3) Something roasted
          red peppers
          eggplant
          tomatoes
          zucchini or summer quash
          winter squash
4) Tomatoes of some sort (fresh, roasted, sundried...)
5) Something sweet
     You can bring out the sweet in something savory
          caramelized onions
          roasted red peppers
          roasted or caramelized carrotts
     Or you can use something more traditionally sweet
          watermellon
          grapes
          apple or pear
6) A range of colors: the red white and green of the Italian flag are a must, but best is to get at least one color beyond that.  Remember also to stick to the rule of not more than two things in any category, so if you used red pepper and tomato already, then you've hit your red limit.  There's actually a nice range of colors in the lists above, but a few other favorites still need to be mentioned.     
     GREEN
          Basil, whole leaves or roughly chopped
          zucchini, raw or roasted
     PURPLE
          eggplant, roasted
     YELLOW
          summer squash, raw or roasted
          corn, raw or cooked

    


         

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Local, Seasonal Chicken Salad and Raspberry Galette

We roasted up the 6-pound chicken that I brought home from Vermont. I kept it simple, to really taste the meat. I rubbed it with oil, salted and peppered the outside, and put a lemon that I had poked holes in into the cavity. It took longer to cook that I thought it would; I've heard that fresh chicken (never frozen) cooks faster than it's defrosted brethren, but I was wrong. It took two hours to get to 165 degrees. Anyway, we ate most of it that evening, but had some leftover, so, as our marriage vows indicate, Dave took over the task of making something delicious out of food I would have sworn had little hope of being eaten.

Below is his incredibly good chicken salad recipe.


A Chicken Salad Change-of-Pace 


Try this if you are bored with your current chicken salad recipe.  Chop up some chicken leftover from a good roast chicken (a couple of cups of finely chopped meat).  Add 1 carrot, diced as small as your patience will allow.  Add 1 medium-sized yellow bell pepper, again diced as small as you can.  Add mayo to taste (I used 3 tablespoons).  Then dice up a few handfuls of flat-leaf parsley and cilantro and throw that in there.  Makes a nice chicken salad change-of-pace for sandwiches!






Yesterday, Vivien and I went raspberry picking again, this time with our friends Meghan and Emma. The girls reenacted Blueberries for Sal; every few minutes Meghan and I would add a handful to their pails, and when they came back to us five minutes later, they would only have three berries in the bucket. However, Meghan and I each picked around four pounds. So, I froze a few trays and we ate a bunch for snack and breakfast today, and the remainder I made into a galette, which is a rustic, free-form pie.


Raspberry Galette


serves 4


Crust:
1 cup white flour
2 TBSP white sugar
1/4 teas. salt
6 TBSP unsalted butter
2 TBSP Crisco
2 TBSP ice cold water


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter and crisco and use two butter knives to criss-cross cut the butter into the flour. When each piece is ~ pea-sized, use your hands to gently rub the butter into the flour until it is cornmeal consistency. Do not over-rub, as it will make the crust tough.


Roll it out into a 12-inch diameter circle and put on a cookie sheet. Put 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries into the center, dust with 1 TBSP sugar and sprinkle 1 teas. lemon juice over it. Fold the sides of the crust up and gently pinch together edges to form a roughly 6-inch diameter circle with an uncovered hole at the top that is ~ 3 inches in diameter. I regret that I did not take a picture, but this website has a nice photo of what the galette should look like.


Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the crust is starting to brown. Cut into four pieces and eat as is, or topped with vanilla ice cream or plain or vanilla yogurt.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Slaughtering Chickens

This weekend will stand out as one of the most fun and relaxing I’ve had in a long time. It's the same one Renée describes below.  We were there together, shared thoughts, concerns, curiousities on the drive up and down.  And just like when my son and I lick off the same ice cream cone we still come up with different descriptiosn of its flavor, we experienced the chicken slaughter in unique ways. 

Renée's dad Dirk and and her stepmom Judith live in a picturesque Vermont town and between the smattering of red and orange leaves, the crisp cool air, and the kids running karate chopping through the community dance late into the night, it was a perfect New England Fall scene. But my favorite part of the weekend was the chicken slaughter.


In part, it was a relief to put some experience behind all of my talk about being the kind of carnivore who has full appreciation for the life and death of her meat.

In part, it was fascinating to learn a whole new side of the food preparation process. And in response to my friends’ somewhat wary, “so, how was it?” I’ve given the physical details. Monty, a professional slaughterer arrived at Dirk and Judith’s with a whole set-up: cones, hangers, vats of hot and cold water, a plucker, and table, and knives. He caught the chickens, turned them upside down and let us help carry them in relative calm across the yard to where we put put them head-down into the cones in batches of six. Monty cut each neck with a single, swift, slice. The heads fell into a bucket, followed by a little blood. The bodies twitched, one or two hard enough to come out of the cones and flop around on the ground, but not for long. Monty dumped them one at a time into the hot water to loosen the feathers, then we took turns holding them by the legs over the spinning plucker, and once the feathers were gone they just looked like a whole bird you’d get at the store. There was still cutting off the feet and gutting them. Reaching into the cavity of the bird and trying to imitate Monty’s single smooth pull and plop of intestines and organs was hard, but it felt like any kitchen skill. Yes, there were the lungs alongside the liver, and a heart that had only just stopped beating, but what mostly passed through my mind were questions about how you might turn those too into good foods, and when someone said their mom used to make cookies with the chicken fat I looked at it and thought yum.

In part, it was amazing to witness the deft hand of a man who’s been slaughtering for more than 40 years, to see the respect, and tenderness, in the way he stepped into the coop, brushed down the white feathers as he lifted the birds, and caught their blood spray across one cheek. Monty is generous with his time and his knowledge, explaining as he went why it’s better to dip the birds in cold water before you try to pull out any last feathers, and slowing his work to remind us how to pinch off the gall bladder or to point out that those little things are the testicles. It was a treat to catch a few hours’ worth of old Vermont stories, and to share thoughts on the future of small farming and local food with folks whose livelilhood depends on its production.

And of course the whole is something that none of those parts quite capture. After it was done, as Monty was cleaning up, I watched a clump of partially coagulated blood slosh out of a bucket with the water and catch on some grass. “That looks like blood” said my son, who had just been allowed to come over to see what we’d been up to. “It is,” I replied, and I wanted to reach down and touch the red remains, to finger the sacred thread that connects life to life through death, a little spilt blood, quickly mixing with dirt and dog shit, divinely mundane.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Let's Talk Chicken

A word of warning: this post contains full details on chicken slaughter.

As I have said before, I feel strongly that if I am going to eat meat (which is at the top of my list for food enjoyment), I should be able to kill the animal I eat. This does not mean I will kill all of the meat I eat, for obvious reasons, but that I understand the process and have actually been involved with it at some point. That's what I said. In reality, I was living a double-standard, and feeling guilty about it. I have always been squeamish about death (I have memories of screaming in fear as my younger sister chased me, holding dead flies), faint at the sight of blood, and felt deep sadness for animals in pain. When I was twelve, my family first raised pigs and I dutifully did chores and thought of them more as pets than anything else. When it came time to kill them, I left for the day; I swore I would not eat their meat. But then I smelled pork chops cooking, and I couldn't help myself. Nor have I been able to help myself ever: I love to eat meat, and talk a good story about how one should be able to kill it, but until this summer, did not.

A previous post details my first kill - lobsters, this summer. I was surprised that while it was difficult to take another animal's life, I felt empowered and responsible and that that lobster was the most delicious I had ever eaten. I also felt as though I wanted to try more. So, this past weekend, Keja and I drove up to my parents' house in Vermont to assist with the annual chicken slaughter. I will let her speak about her impressions, but here are mine.

My parents' have a friend come in to actually do the slaughter and they assist. Monty has been doing this for forty years. He is jolly and kind and funny and a wonderful teacher. He neither praised us for overcoming our hesitation and assisting, nor made light of what we were doing. He sees this as a job and wants to do it the best he can. It felt respectful and practical all at once. I don't know what my Dad told him about our desire to participate, but Monty started out with, "okay, let's go get some chickens" and we followed him into the barn, where he grabbed them, one by one, and handed them out to us. It's true that when you hold a chicken upside-down they don't fight. We put them into cones, so their heads hung out from the bottom, and Monty cut off each chicken's head with a knife so quickly that you literally would miss it if you blinked. And then, like the lobsters, the nervous system went into overload and their bodies convulsed and the wings flapped, and a few did so so hard that they came out of the cones and jumped and flapped on the ground for about a minute. This was the hardest part, to see this. My brain knew the chicken was dead and not feeling pain but my heart couldn't help but feel incredible pity and sadness for this being that looked alive, except for the obviously missing head. Monty says this convulsing happens to all animals at slaughter, even large beef cows, and probably would to humans, too.

Monty then dropped each body into hot water for a minute and then handed them to us. We held them over a plucker, a machine that has very flexible five inch rubber prongs that rotate quickly and remove all but a few feathers. Then we cut off the feet for my stepmother to make chicken stock with and dropped the chicken into cold water. When all of the chickens had been processed this far, we gutted them. Monty patiently walked us through this a few times until we felt confident.

Seventeen chickens went from clucking birds to ready-to-roast in three hours. It got easier as we went along. I was amazed at how, once the feathers were off, they felt like meat. I was sad, carrying them out from the barn, knowing that within minutes they would be dead, and they didn't even know it, but also honored to know that I was choosing to turn them from barnyard birds into food, because I want to eat them. I wasn't leaving the dirty work to someone else whom I would never meet. I knew that these birds had been cared for well their entire short lives. They had a clean, cozy stall to sleep in, a beautiful field to run it, an apple tree to nap under and eat the apples from when they dropped. And they had a respectful, quick death. I know they were scared before they died; how could they not have been? But short of being gassed in their sleep, I don't think they could have died any better or more humanely.

So in the end, we drove home with a cooler of fresh chicken and the knowledge that we choose to eat meat knowing what that means. It was not an anonymous death tonight's dinner had, but one done with full knowledge of the responsibility we take for our choice to honor our omnivorous heritage.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Busy Time of Year

Although modern life allows us the luxury of buying food whenever we need it, no matter the time of year, something about the late summer and early fall makes me feel kinship for people who lived before refrigeration and grocery stores. I would never pretend to know the hardship of that life, but I certainly appreciate what they must have gone through to ensure their family's survival over a long winter. The summer laziness quickly shifts into back-to-school, house repair, intense garden and CSA food storage, so I end up having to think one day at a time to get through the madness. Much of it is delightful work: who doesn't enjoy making tomato sauce to freeze or picking raspberries? I just returned from a lovely morning doing just that with my friend Katherine and her grandchildren and my kids. In an hour and a half Katherine and I picked six pounds of berries while the four kids ran shirtless up and down the long rows. The farm we go to is called Wright-Locke Farm and is a tiny little place in the middle of Winchester, staffed by volunteers. The berries are organic and plentiful. If you live in the area, you should go.

In between freezing trays of berries, the kids and I made stock out of the chicken from last night. Next we have collard greens to blanch and freeze for winter soups. It is quite a feeling of accomplishment to look in the chest freezer and see it full of amazing produce, all grown locally, some even from our own backyard.

Roast Chicken with a Spicy Butter Rub

1 roasting chicken
4 TBSP butter, softened
1 TBSP pressed or finely minced garlic
1 teas. paprika
1/2 teas. cayenne pepper
1/2 teas. salt
1/2 teas. ground coriander
2 limes

Preheat the oven to 375.

Place the chicken in a roasting pan and pat dry with a paper towel.

In a small bowl, combine butter and spices and mix together until smooth.

Rub butter mixture all over chicken.

With a sharp knife, poke 4 or 5 holes in each lime and put into the chicken cavity.

Roast until done (thermometer in thickest part should read at least 165 degrees), ~ 1 to 1 1/2 hours.


Roasted Veggies

This is just another take on the roasted veggies we love. We got okra in the CSA last week and it wasn't really enough to make into gumbo. It sat in the bottom of my fridge and I knew it was going to stay there until I didn't recognize it, unless I used it immediately. This can cook at the same time as the chicken.

4 to 6 small beets, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 to 4 carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
10 to 12 okra
olive oil
salt
pepper

Toss the vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake at 375, stirring every 20 to 30 minutes, until cooked, ~ 45 minutes.

Serve everything with a green salad and apple pie.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's too hot to cook

Tuesday night I didn't even notice supper time come or go.  The kitchen isn't the coolest room in the house, so I didn't go near it, and when the outside and inside temperature have been over 90 and humid for hours, my stomach seems to shut down.  Then of course, around 10 pm a cool breeze began to stir and all of my senses reemerged, but there was still no way I was going to turn on even a single burner.  Luckily, vegetables are in high supply and it's easy to make big and varied salads.  We're now on day three of the heat wave, and I've added in cold veggie sandwiches to my diet for a little change of pace.  There's no real recipe coming here, more a set of suggestions.  The biggest one, though, is that while all of the fantastic fresh stuff goes well together, only raw food for three days straight gets tedious.  A supply of roasted goodies, jarred and chilled, can make a world of the difference.  If you can plan ahead, on those 70-degree nights get it going.  Otherwise, even last night between midnight and five am it was cool enough to have the oven on--usually a time when you're doing something else, ok, but when I'm faced with a choice between sleeping and eating or even preparing good things to eat, sleeping doesn't stand a chance. 

My favorite cooked add-ins are:
Kim's roasted tomatoes
Broiler-roasted red peppers: cut red peppers in half, remove seeds, and set flat side down on a baking pan.  Place under a broiler until the skins are black.  Set into a bowl and cover tightly for 10-30 minutes.  Slip off skins and slice peppers.
Roasted eggplant: slice into 1/4" thick rounds or strips, lay on a baking pan, drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes
Roasted zucchini: same as above.
Marinated steamed potatoes: peel if desired and cut potatoes into 1" squares.  Steam until just tender.  While they are still hot, put into a jar with a good amount of balsamic vinaigrette and shake well.   
Marinated steamed green beans: same as above, just trim the beans and leave whole or cut as desired.
Marinated steamed beets: big whole beets aren't fully in season yet, but beet greens are and they often come with tiny little baby beets attached--you can cut these off and use them, they're so tender they don't even need to be peeled--prepare as for potatoes
Hard boiled eggs

Toss some selection of the above in a salad or layer for a sandwich with any combination of
lettuce if you can still get any
finely chopped swiss chard (a great lettuce replacer and in full supply now)
thinly sliced cabbage (just coming into season)
cucumber if you can still get any
tomatoes (the combo of fresh and roasted in any of the veggies is delightful)
grated or finely chopped apples (now in season!)
carrotts
sweet peppers
raw green beans
fresh corn kernels
celery

And then to really take a salad it over the top, sprinkle on some feta cheese

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dave's Garbage Minestrone


A guest post by Dave:

One of my hidden talents is making a meal out of whatever is left over in the pantry.  After two or three nights of incredible Cooking-the-Seasons meals, Renée sometimes takes a night off.  She will complain to me, "there's nothing in the fridge," in response to which I only chuckle.  That saggy celery?  That half pint of olives?  That leftover rice?  Nothing?  Throw in a few scraps of meat and I will produce something that tastes at least half as good as the meal it was derived from.  One great pleasure I take from our surfeit of CSA veggies is coming up with clever ways to turn them into calories.

So it was with gusto that I accepted the challenge put to me the other night at Renée's bachelor uncle's house.  She had roasted a chicken the night before, and as I hate to throw out a perfectly good carcass, I decided on soup.  Making the stock would not be a problem.  There were no onions, but I put the chicken carcass in a pot with 6 cups of water, cut up 3 carrots and 3 celery stalks that were definitely past their prime but not rotten, 8 peppercorns, 2 bay leaves, a bit of thyme and rosemary (I usually use tarragon), and let it simmer all afternoon.

In the evening it was time to make a meal out of this.  First I strained out everything that had been cooking in the water all day.  I know, you're saying, "Even the meat, Dave?  EVEN the MEAT?!?"  Yes, even the meat.  Taste it!  Yeah, what do you say now?  Doesn't taste much like meat anymore, does it?  The flavor has in fact gotten all infused in the water, which is what we wanted it to do when we decided to simmer it all afternoon.  Don't be sad!  That meat has done its job.  It can now go into the garbage can.

Okay, now what to add to this nice stock?  Checking the cupboards.... whew, how can he live like this?... let's see, this can of garbanzo beans will be nice.  Strain them, throw them in.  Then some carrots and celery from the newer bag (I used up the older ones making the stock).  A big can of crushed tomatoes?  Yes please.  Tomatoes give lots of flavor.  Diced up two potatoes.  A couple handfuls of macaroni.  The last handful of green beans from the bottom of the veggie drawer.  Bring it to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.

While simmering, season to taste.  I am gun-shy of spices because I know once you go too far you cannot come back.  So I add salt, pepper, a bit of cayenne, basil, dried parsley, and a little powdered garlic EXTREMELY slowly, bit by bit.  After many excruciating minutes of this, I ask Renée to have a taste.  She tells me it's completely flavorless and starts dumping in spices willy-nilly.  "STOP!" I think.  But we've been through this before, and I know not to get in her way.  When she finishes her promiscuous seasoning, the soup tastes just right.  The moral of the story is either, A) don't be so afraid of spices, soup can handle it, or b) listen to your wife, she knows what she's talking about.

Serve with salad and toasted bread with raw garlic rubbed on it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Don't swap the zucchini

Our CSA has come up with the wonderful idea of a swap box - after you pick up your share you can leave off things you really don't in exchange for someone else's discards.  Recently, there has been more and more zucchini in that box.  That's probably because while many other things come and go pretty quickly at the CSA (we had two or three weeks of onions, potatoes, kale), the zucchini just keeps on coming.  New to me this year, though, is the variety: alongside the long dark green zucchini and slightly bell-shaped yellow summer squash are beautiful light green bell-shaped ones, and perfectly darling two-fist-sized dark green balls.  I've been happily hiding away my loads of them in tomato sauce, but the beautiful variety of shapes really calls out for stuffing.  And it helps that stuffed zucchini offers up a filling that little ones just adore (they avoid the outside and without knowing it gobble up all of the zucchini in the middle).

STUFFED ZUCCHINI
Serves 4

4 medium zucchini (the round ones are my new favorite to stuff, but for the best presentation, use a variety of shapes and colors)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 can tomato paste (or, 1/2 cup blended roasted tomatoes)
1/4 cup water
leaves from 1 large sprig oregano
1/3 cup rice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 T olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 350.  Saute the onion in olive oil until just soft.  Add the garlic and saute until the onion is translucent.  Meanwhile, scoop out the insides from the zucchini, leaving just enough shell to hold its shape.  Set the zucchini shells into a baking pan.  Chop up the zucchini insides.  Remove the onion and garlic and set aside.  Saute the ground beef until brown.  Add  back in the garlic and onion, zucchini, tomato paste, water, rice, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a simmer and cook, low, for about five minutes.  Remove from heat and stir parmesan.  Scoop the stuffing into the zucchini shells, making as high a hill as can hold itself together in each shell.  If there are any leftovers, you can bake them in a ramekin.  Bake 30 minutes. 

Serve with mashed potatoes, rice, or bread (there will be yummy sauce you'll want to sop up with something) and salad.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Peachy

I have been so busy freezing peaches for the winter that I almost forgot to just eat them.  Luckily, a few days before they start to go bad, their sweet smell starts to creep around the house, and I remember.  There was one pile left in my fruit bowl from last week's farmer's market.  All but two went into the meal.  But this is high harvest time in New England, so we also had eggplant half from my garden and half from the CSA (the Asian eggplant that I put it are growing beautifully and thickly), and a savory watermellon salad inspired by a fellow CSA member who described something similar at yesterday's pickup.  But we haven't found a new meat CSA, so I did have to go to Whole Foods for that.  I went in thinking I would get pork loin or ribs and make a rhubarb barbecue sauce with the rhubarb that's finally really taken off back behind my tomatoes.  But the pork was from Oakland, California.  (Oakland is a city, so I hope it's really from somewhere nearby, but just that suspicion is one more reason to buy local meat!).  The only really local meat that the Fresh Pond Whole Foods carries is beef.  There were some beautiful and expensive steaks, and a stack of quite inexpensive and intriguing "Beef shins."  The butcher had never made them either, but another customer told him that they're best cooked slow and have nice marrow (so right).  So I took home much more than I needed (4 lbs, even with all of that bone, would easily serve 6 people) and threw it in the crock pot with just what I had though of for the ribs.  That was 1:00.  When we started cooking at 5, the meat was a little tough and the sauce kind of bland and thin.  But by the time we were ready to eat, around 7, the meat was falling off the bone tender and the sauce was thick, rich, and tangy.  I put the leftovers in the freezer to use later with some roots for a nice Fall stew. 

COCKY PEACH
serves 2

4 peaches, peeled
1/2 cup tarragon grappa
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1tsp. lemon juice
1 T agave nectar

Blend thoroughly and serve over ice

SAVORY WATERMELON SALAD
serves 3-4
1 small watermellon, cubed (about 2 cups)
1 small red onion, roughly chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup feta cheese, cubed

Dress with:
1 T olive oil
1 T while balsamic vinegar
dash salt
dash pepper

ASIAN DIPPING EGGPLANT
My friend Liz made a version of this for me when I was in China visiting her a few weeks ago.  The taste stayed with me.  Steamed eggplant takes on a wonderful almost silky texture, and is perfectly balanced with this spicy, salty dip.  Use 1 large or 2 small eggplants per person.

Steam the eggplants whole for about 20 minutes, until very soft, almost mushy, to the touch.  You can let them sit in the steamer, covered, until you're ready to serve.  When you do serve, place the eggplants whole on a plate.  They will break open into long almost stringy parts with the most gentle prodding of fork or chopstick.  Set the bowl with dipping sauce in the center of the table so everyone can lift out pieces from their place and dip to taste.

Dipping Sauce
1 tsp. Chinese hot pepper paste
1/8 c. tamari
1 T dark rice vinegar
1 T light rice vinegar
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

BEEF SHIN WITH RHUBARB BARBECUE SAUCE
serves 4-6

2 large beef shins
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
12 rhubarb stalks, chopped into 1/2" pieces
2 T tomato paste
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T worsteshire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Brown  beef shins and set in crock pot. In the drippings, saute the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent.  Add in all other ingredients and briefly stir.  Pour over the beef shins in the crock pot and turn to coat.  Cook on low 6-8 hours.

PEACH CLAFOUTI
serves 4-6

For those who've been following us for a while, we made this using half of our clafouti recipe from April, substituting half peaches for the raspberries, and baking it in a small (half of a lasagna-pan) pan.  Here's the whole thing laid out:

3 peaches, peeled and halved
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 cup 1/2 and 1/2
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350.  Set the peaches in the pan, flat side down.  Whisk together all of the remaining ingredients.  Pour around the peaches.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Cool slightly before eating.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sushi in Detail

I will now attempt to explain how to roll sushi, something I have been avoiding for a long time, since I am self-taught (and therefore self-conscious about it) and also still improving my technique. My one suggestion is to get good ingredients and, worst case, you eat a bowl of sushi rice, vegetables, seaweed, and fish.

I try not to beat dead horses but once again I am going to plug New Deal Fish Market. If you live in the greater-Boston area, go there. They have never steered me wrong and their sushi-grade fish selection is outstanding. The key to buying fish in general, and sushi in particular, is that the market should not smell fishy at all. New Deal does not; it smells like the ocean.

The other night my mother-in-law was visiting from Nebraska. She grew up in Maryland and loves seafood. It's very difficult to get fresh fish in her town and so when she comes East, she stocks up on her fish intake for the season. So, naturally, we decided to make her sushi. However, much of the traditional ingredients are not exactly local, so we brainstormed and took advantage of the CSA pick-up that day, and made fairly local, and definitely seasonal, sushi rolls.

Determining amounts is tough for me with sushi. Obviously, you shouldn't do the standard 1/2 lb. fish per person. I like to make sushi and sashimi, too, so I tend to get around 1/4 lb. per person plus a little more. The recipe below overly fed 6 hungry sushi lovers. We used about half the fish for sashimi (unadorned, raw slices) and half for the rolls.

Ingredients:
1 lb. sushi-grade, raw salmon
3/4 lb. sushi-grade, raw tuna
1 avocado
1 carrot
1 beet
3 to 4 scallions
1 peach
1 summer squash
1 cucumber
5 to 6 green beans
8 to 10 sprigs cilantro
2 oz. cream cheese cut from block lengthwise
8 to 10 nori sheets or soy sheets, cut in half
8 to 10 servings sushi rice, made according to package instructions
2 to 3 TBSP mirin (found in New Deal, Whole Foods, or other grocery stores)
wasabi
tamari
prepared ginger

Make the rice and when it completely cooked according to package instructions, stir in mirin until the rice is slightly loose but still sticky. Spread it out on a tray to cool.

My two helpers




Cut all vegetables into long, thin sticks.

Slice fish, against grain, into 1/4 inch thick slices. If you are going to have sashimi, too, leave some as is. Otherwise, cut slices into strips for rolls. The rolls can take odd and end pieces, so use the nicest cuts for the sashimi.

Cut cream cheese into thin strips.




Have a bowl of water and a tea towel at hand for rinsing sticky hands. 

Have serving platters ready to put prepared sushi onto.

Have a sharp knife ready.

When everything is cut and laid out in front of you, you are ready to begin filling.



Place a half sheet of nori in front of you. Imagine the nori in divided into 2 halves, top to bottom. With your hands, pick up ~ 1/4 cup rice and evenly spread it on the bottom half of the nori, leaving a one inch strip of nori at the very bottom uncovered. You may need a bit more rice. When it is evenly spread, gently but firmly press down all over rice to flatten it to the nori.



Place whatever fish/vegetable combination you desire in the middle third of the rice strip. My kids adore salmon, avocado, and cream cheese, so I make sure to do a bunch of those. Avoid overstuffing, as it will make rolling difficult. You may want to rinse your fingers if they are sticky from the rice.




Now you are ready to roll. 

Gently roll the bottom edge away from you, towards the top, holding ingredients in as you go. If you have not overstuffed, the un-riced edge on the bottom should meet the un-riced edge at the top and will seal well. If it is too full and you can't get the edges to meet, remove some of the ingredients inside. If the nori won't stick to itself, dampen your fingers slightly with water and use the water as glue.

When it is completely rolled and staying together, take a very sharp knife and slice the roll, lengthwise, into 6 to 8 pieces, each around one inch wide and place on a platter. If you are serving small children, you can cut them slightly thinner, as thicker rolls are difficult for little mouthes. Serve with wasabi, tamari, and ginger.

Continue above directions until you have as many rolls as you want. Keja and I have been enjoying taking the leftover odds and ends of vegetables and fish and making a poke (sort of a salsa-like, salad-esque fish and vegetable mix). It's delicious and a nice addition to the meal. 


Poke

Cube all leftover vegetables and fish from above and use the dressing below, or if starting from scratch, use the following:

1 peach (or mango)
1/2 avocado
1 cup sushi-grade, raw fish in any combination
7 sprigs cilantro, chopped

Dressing:
2 teas. toasted sesame oil
2 teas. tamari
2 teas. lemon juice

Chop peach, avocado, and fish (or other vegetables) into 1/4 to 1/3 inch cubes. Place in a bowl. Add dressing, stir gently, and serve.

Sushi rolled and ready to eat!




Sunday, August 8, 2010

Creamy dessert, drink, and dinner

You can't get much farther from Somerville than China, so someone who knows will have to explain why while I was there the past few weeks sure I found plenty of fantastically delicious vegetables that don't even have names in English, but also in season the very same things that Renee was picking up at the CSA.  In fact, when you walk by a market in Chengdu in late July and early August, what wafts out are not the odd odor of unmentionable fowel parts that I expected, but the sweet sweet smell of ripe peaches.  And Liz who most generously hosted us has the simplest and most scrumptious way to turn peaches into ice cream.  She is also responsible for adding the little kick to my version of the Cucumber Margarita. 

Peach Ice Cream

6 large peaches (or the equivalent in small)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 pint cream

Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and drop the peaches in for 3-5 minutes.  Remove and let cool until you can handle them.  Slip off the skins and cut in half to remove pits.  Drop peaches, cream, and sugar into a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into an ice cream maker and follow directions. 

Ice Creamy Cucumber Margaritas
serves 4

4 cucumbers
1 cup tequila
4 T cointreau
4 T lime juice
Rock salt
1 jalapeno

Peel the cucumbers, cut four slices and set aside, then roughly chop the rest.  Put them in a blender and pulse until smooth.  Mix in with the tequila, cointreau, and lime juice.  Pour into an ice cream maker and follow directions, stopping when the mixture just begins to freeze and has the creamy consistency of a blended margarita (about 15 minutes).  Meanwhile, rub the rims of four (ideally, chilled) margarita glasses first with a cucumber slice, then with the inside of the jalapeno.  Pour about 2 T of rock salt into a plate and dip the rims into the salt. 

Creamy Totally Homemade Tomato Sauce

Up until last week, I considered my tomatoe sauce homemade if I cooked and blended it myself.  But I didn't look at the origin on the cans of diced tomatoes, knowing somewhere not so deep down that New England does not have a tomato canning industry.  Somehow, canned tomatoes had become such a regular part of my tomato sauces that I didn't even really consider it an option to use fresh instead.  But tomato season is finally in such full swing that between the CSA and my garden I had more tomatoes than I could possibly consume raw, and then these gorgeous romas were on sale that Farmers Market for $1.50 a pound, and I piled 16 of them into my bag.  The resulting totally homemade tomato sauce has me prepping and planning so I never used canned again.

This recipe makes about 24 cups or one big soup pot's worth of tomatoe sauce.  I freeze it in 2- and 4-cup containers since I use about 1 cup of sauce per person in most pasta with tomato sauce dishes.  This sauce also works wonderfully on pizza and in lasagna.

4 onions, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
16 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 zucchini, cut in rounds
8 sprigs oregano, leaves and flowers, if they're out, only
(and if you have them, 4 carrotts roughly chopped)
2 T olive oil
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper

In a soup pot, saute the onions until translucent in the olive oil. Add the garlic and saute for another 3-5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, zucchini, carrotts if you have them, oregano, salt, and pepper and stir well.  Cover, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook 30-45 minutes.  Remove cover and cook another 20 minutes, or until the liquid reduces enough that you'll get a creamy rather than a watery sauce (the liquid level should look like it comes up to about 3/4 of the pot height).  You can freeze and use it like this, but since I have a child who doesn't like to actually see as such the vegetables he's eating, I always blend the whole thing.  Also, blended in the zucchini gives the sauce a rich creamy flavor and texture.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Local News, Gazpacho, and Creamed Corn

First, we are delighted to announce that our blog is being picked up by Somerville Local First (it's local and seasonal, so don't worry), a hip, in-the-moment organization that is bringing awareness to the public about supporting local businesses. It's right up our alley, and we're psyched to be a part of their new local blogging forum.

Second, the CSA has kicked into high gear, and Keja was away so I was getting her share, too! What to do, you ask? Gazpacho. My kids were delighted. Actually, they can't stand it, but, House Rule 42 indicates that we will serve gazpacho until they say they like it, so we've been having it daily.

I'm not even going to give you a recipe, but instead, general guidelines, because the joyful thing about gazpacho is that you can put almost anything in it and it will taste good. Because of the immense amount of greens we're getting, our gazpachos of late have been deep green, rather than the more common tomato-based red.

You will either need a food processor, blender, or incredible patience and a sharp knife. I am going to assume you are using a food processor or blender, so if you are not, just chop everything as tiny as possible.

Wash all ingredients first, and chop any large ones into 2 to 3 inch chunks for easier blending.

We have been using the following:

tomatoes
lettuce
cucumbers
peppers of any color
garlic cloves
scallions
onions
beet greens
chard
kale
cilantro
basil
carrots

Blend until smooth. Once it's blended, add salt and pepper to taste. Add a TBSP or so of lemon juice and a TBSP or so of apple cider vinegar. Drizzle in 2 to 3 TBSP olive oil. Taste as you go along. Add more salt or pepper or garlic, etc., as needed. We have found that it's hard to add too much onion and garlic. Something about the mix takes away the sharpness and leaves only a lovely essence.

Make this at least a few hours in advance so it can chill. Lately, we've been making large batches and storing in mason jars in the fridge for up to 5 days, making for easy lunches.

We serve it with a dollop of plain yogurt and topped with croutons. When garlic scapes were in season, we topped it with crisply sautéed scapes, too.

Croutons

Whenever we have a heel of bread, we cut it into cubes and throw it into the freezer.

In a cast iron frying pan, add a TBSP olive oil over low heat. When it is hot, add 1 to 2 cups bread cubes and stir around to evenly cover with oil.

Sprinkle with the following: salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, or other spices of your choosing. Stir occasionally, until croutons are crispy and dry, ~ 15 to 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can bake them. Toss cube with oil and spices and spread out on a cookie sheet. Bake at 300 until crispy. I avoid this method in the summer to keep the house cooler.


Creamed Corn

Our CSA had lovely young corn last week. Oddly, my children don't like corn on the cob much, so it stayed in the fridge for 4 or 5 days. I finally decided to make creamed corn.

1 TBSP olive oil
10 ears corn, kernels cut off cob
1/2 teas. salt
1/2 teas. pepper
3/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium-low heat.

Add corn and stir frequently for 10 minutes.

Add salt and pepper.

Add half and half and turn to low and cook for ~20 minutes until half and half has reduced, thickened, and become a bit sticky. Stir every 5 minutes or so.

Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Add more salt and pepper if needed.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Odds and Ends on a Hot Summer's Night

I don't suggest serving these together. They are recipes I've tried in the past few days that need to be told. The risotto was great with green beans. The potato salad was great with steak and green salad. The Manhattan? With any or all of the above! And now, I hear rain. Ahhhh.

Shrimp Risotto

2 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic scapes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 bulbs fennel, chopped
1 cup arborio rice
4 to 6 cups stock
1/3 cup white wine
1/2 teas. pepper
1/2 teas. salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup grated parmesan cheese


Shrimp

1/4 teas. garlic powder
1/4 teas. chili powder
1/4 teas. tumeric
1/4 teas. smoked paprika
1/4 teas. coriander
1/2 teas. cilantro salt
1/2 teas. pepper
1 teas. lemon zest
1 TBSP olive oil
3/4 lb. shrimp


In a dutch oven or other heavy duty, large pot over medium heat, add olive oil. After a minute, add onion and scapes and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. 

Add summer squash and fennel, and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add rice and stir constantly, 5 minutes. 

Begin adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time. Stir constantly. When liquid has evaporated, add another half cup. After adding 2 cups stock, add the wine next, and then continue with the stock as before.

Add salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, mix garlic powder, chili powder, tumeric, paprika, coriander, salt, pepper, and lemon zest in a small bowl. 

In a hot frying pan, add olive oil. Add shrimp and herb mix and stir well. Cook, stirring frequently, until shrimp are jut cooked through and pink, ~ 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

When the rice is just tender, ~ 25 to 30 minutes, and stock does not evaporate very quickly, take off the heat. Add in shrimp and all the pan scrapings, lemon juice and cheese and stir well. Check to make sure there is enough salt and pepper. Serve.


Dill Bacon Potato Salad

1 lb. new yellow potatoes
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
2 TBSP olive oil
1 bunch dill, chopped
2 slices bacon, cooked well and cut or crumbled into small pieces
4 garlic scapes, sautéed in 2 teas. olive oil
1 onion, chopped, and sautéed until caramelized in 1 TBSP olive oil (or bacon grease)
salt and pepper to taste

Put whole potatoes into a pan of water. Water should just cover potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until just tender. Remove from heat and pour into a strainer.

When potatoes have air-dried, cut into bite-sized pieces and put into a mixing bowl and add vinegar and olive oil. You can let this chill for up to 24 hours or continue on to next step.

Add dill, bacon, scapes, onion and salt and pepper. Stir well.


And now, a Dave special.

Pyrat Manhattan

2 oz. Pyrat rum
1 oz. sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters

Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.