Saturday, November 26, 2011

Turkey 1,000 Ways

(I used Elise's Mom's idea, from Simply Recipes, and cooked the bird breast-side down for most of it's cooking time.  The breast meat stayed really moist.  Unfortunately, flipping it over to brown the top skin, I split it.  Fortunately, that had absolutely nothing to do with the taste!)

Okay, it's only three ways so far: herb roasted, in a pasta dish, and in a Mexican-inspired recipe.  But so far I'm having fun with this.  I'll keep going until my husband says he's had  enough.  (On deck: turkey soup, turkey croquettes, and turkey stromboli.  Why not?)

We had a 16.34 pound turkey for Thanksgiving...for the two of us.  We had asked the farm for a 12-14 lb (preferably in the lower range) bird, and we didn't realize they'd given us the wrong one until it was two days too late to do anything about it.  One whole breast is frozen and awaiting future dinners, as is about three cups of shredded meat.  The rest, I've been playing with to see if I could avoid rapid turkey overload. 

All of the recipes have been inspired by internet searches, many from Rachael Ray's leftover ideas.  But they're all originals, and so far, so good!

Turkey-Pancetta Pasta
by Me  (serves about 6)

12 oz. whole wheat rotini pasta, or other short cut, cooked til barely al dente, drained
2 oz pancetta, cubed, small
1 medium shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp chopped fresh sage
1 tbsp+ 1 tsp olive oil, divided (depending on how much fat the pancetta renders)
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1 1/4 cup turkey or chicken broth , divided
1 1/2 cups chopped turkey
1 1/2 cups chopped green beans (ours were leftover; blanch if fresh)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup ricotta cheese
zest of one lemon
1/3 c parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350.
1.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add 1 1/2 tsp of olive oil and the pancetta, and cook until almost crisp, about 4 minutes.  Add the shallot, garlic, and sage, and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallot is softened, about 4 minutes.  If the pan doesn't have at least a tablespoon of oil, add olive oil.  Sprinkle over flour and stir, cooking for about 1 minute. 

2.  Spoon in a 1/2 cup of broth; stir until it forms a very loose "paste."  Add another 1/2 cup of the broth, stir, and bring to a bubble.  Cook about 2 minutes, or until sauce begins to thicken.  Add the chopped turkey and the green beans, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove from the heat.

3.  Stir the ricotta cheese and lemon zest into the turkey mixture, then stir in the pasta.  Stir well to combine.  If it seems a bit dry, mix in some of the remaining broth.  Sprinkle evenly with the shredded cheese.  Bake 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the dish is hot through, but the cheese is not browned.  You don't want it to dry out.

Turkey Mexican Lasagna
by Me  (serves about 6)

1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tbsp butter (you could use all canola...I had this around waiting to be used up)
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped small
1 jalapeno, seeded, ribs removed, and chopped small
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
heaped tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups turkey or chicken broth
juice of half a lime
1 1/2 cups chopped turkey
1 15 oz can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
6 6-inch flour tortillas, cut into sixths
2 1/2  tbsp chopped green onions
2 cups pepper jack cheese, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup tomatillo salsa,divided

Preheat oven to 350.  Oil an 11 x 7 baking dish.
1.  Heat canola oil  (and butter, if using) in a large skillet over medium-low.  Add onion and saute until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and jalapeno, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.  Stir in cumin, chili powder, and oregano; cook one minute. 

2.  Stir in flour, cook one minute.  Add 1/2 cup turkey broth and stir until flour is incorporated into the broth, then add rest of broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in lime juice, 1/4 cup salsa, turkey, beans.

3.  Coat the bottom of the baking dish with about 1/4 cup tomatillo salsa.  Layer the tortilla wedges so they cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer.  Spoon over half of the turkey mixture, sprinkle over 1 tbsp green onions, and 3/4 cup of cheese.  Repeat tortilla, turkey, onion, and cheese layer.  Add  a final layer of tortillas to the top; spread the remaining salsa over them, and top with remaining cheese.  Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, or until bubbly.  Remove from oven, top with green onions.  Let sit about 10 minutes before cutting.

Remind me to tell you about this one, too.  It's not turkey, but it could be!  This one is a butternut squash, red onion, walnut and bleu cheese crostata.  I am a little bit in love with it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hello, Beautiful!

Alas, I don't have a picture of this one.  It was impromptu, and wasn't actually made to be eaten immediately.  It was made to keep me awake and on my feet during a migraine that I refused to let win.  It worked.  And, oh, what a good way to beat a migraine.  The smells...just lovely.  Had it for lunch today.  Trust me, this one is greater than the simple sum of its parts.

 Autumn Minestrone
by Me

2 tbsp olive oil
1 c chopped onion
2 tsp chopped garlic
hefty pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 c chopped celery
2 cups cubed, peeled rutabaga
1-2 cups chopped carrot (I went with more)
6 thyme sprigs
1-2 tsp chopped sage (some people find this one too strong, so maybe err on the side of caution)
bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup vermouth
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
rind of a piece of parmigiano (you could leave this out...but don't)
4-5 cups thinly sliced kale or other sturdy green
1 peeled, diced delicata squash, about 3 cups (could use butternut)

1.  Warm the olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion through bay leaf.  Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until vegetables start to get tender.  (For a deeper flavor, turn the heat up to medium-high and let the vegetables brown a little bit before step two.)

2.  Add the vermouth; cook, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from the pan.  When it is almost evaporated/absorbed, add the broth and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add the kale and parmigiano.  Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

3.  Add the squash, simmer for another 10 minutes, or until the squash is tender but not mushy.  Fish out the thyme stems and bay leaf, and serve.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Summer's End

Surprise!  You missed us when you grabbed the others!
Pizza with homemade dough and sauce and garden grown arugula. Yum!
Tomatillo and Pepper Salsa
Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread
Beer Braised Pork with Polenta and Spicy Cabbage Apple Slaw

I've been doing a little cooking lately... 

It's that time of year again, when being outside in the garden is no longer an option, especially now that I've cleaned it out, composted it, and put it to bed for the season as of today.  It wasn't a bad haul for a garden that hadn't really been tended for a while.  I got about a pound of tomatillos, four cups of arugula in varying leaf sizes, a few stray tomatoes, and some potatoes that I didn't find when I harvested their brethren.  There were also some raspberries (and some still to ripen, if they beat the race with the weather) and some sorrel leaves.  The Lacinato and Curly Kale will be around for a month or so...if I don't devour it sooner.

There are some greens under row covers, and the peas are doing their best to mature in time.  The slugs have had a field day with them.  Alas, for the slugs anyway, there's no where left to hide now that the garden's cleaned up.  (Cue evil laugh track here.)

There will be herbs like parsley, dill, sage, thyme, and rosemary for a few weeks yet, and then one by one they'll drop off.  I'll be able to harvest sparingly from the woodier ones all winter, but I tend to go easy on them since I want them to come back in the spring.

We ate well today in the midst of all of the raking, shoveling, and ripping out of plants.  Lunch was the pizza, with a dough recipe from Giada De Laurentiis that I found on Epicurious and a roasted tomato sauce that I got from my friend Winter.  It was lovely.  So lovely, we might have eaten the whole thing...but I'm not telling for sure so you can think what you want. 

Dinner was Black Bean-Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Salsa.  I wanted to make chicken stock, so I simmered a whole chicken until done, skinned it, shredded the meat (most went in the freezer) and added the bones back to do some more simmering.  I mixed the chicken with black beans, rolled the mix in corn tortillas, and smothered it with tomatillo salsa (recipe to follow) and cheese.  Baked at 350 for about 1/2 hour, it was a nice way to end the day (though my husband would think it nicer if the Patriots had actually won).  We definitely did eat all of those, hence no pictures.  (Cue oink here.)

Tomatillo Salsa
by Me

1 lb tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 green onions
1 poblano pepper
2 Anaheim chiles
1 jalapeno
1 tbsp canola
salt, to taste
lime juice, optional

1.  Preheat grill to high.  Place all peppers and the green onions directly on the grill.  Use a vegetable grill plate or make a foil packet for the tomatillos; place on grill.
2.  Once onions are somewhat charred, move them on top of the tomatillos.  Let the skin of the peppers get blackened and blistered.  Remove to a container, cover, and let steam until cool enough to handle.  Cook the tomatillos until very soft and some are starting to burst.
3.  Chop the green onions and put in food processor.  Skin and seed the peppers, add to food processor.  Scrape in tomatillos and any juice.  Add oil and salt, and blend to desired consistency.  Stir in lime juice, if desired.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

That winter thing

It's definitely going to do the winter thing here this year. Not that I really thought it wouldn't...but the warmer temps we've had until recently made me irrationally hopeful. The crazy storm that dumped a foot of snow in Western Massachusetts and other places, along with mornings in the low to mid-30's, have brought me back to reality. That reality means soup.

Tonight's soup was a variation on one I've made often. It's an escarole and bean concoction that I remember my mom making occasionally. I LOVE escarole. There's something wonderful about it's rather squeaky texture and earthy, herby bitterness that makes me happy. And unlike most lettuces, which it is similar to in raw texture, escarole is great raw and cooked. I can't say I've ever enjoyed cooked lettuce. It tastes rotten to me. Anyway, back to dinner.

I decided to combine some flavors I've been reading about in Melissa Clark's new book, Cook This Now. (Love her writing. I'm most happy about having discovered her and Nigel Slater this year.) The resulting soup was great; warming, hearty but not heavy, and perfect for dipping bread into the broth.

Escarole and Bean Soup with Pancetta
By Me

3 tbsp olive oil
1/4-1/3 cup pancetta, diced small
4-6 anchovies
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup carrots, peeled and chopped into small-ish pieces
Scant tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
Scant tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste
6-8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 1/2 cups beans (I used cranberry beans I had in the freezer, but any white and/or creamy mild bean will work, like canelinni...which I suddenly can't remember how to spell...)
1 large head escarole, chopped
Parmigiano cheese for topping

1. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy and browned. Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon; reserve.
2. Add the anchovies to the oil on the pot and stir until they "melt" into the oil, about 1 minute. Add the garlic through parsley, a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until the carrots begin to soften, about five minutes.
3. Add the wine or vermouth and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about two minutes.
4. Add 6 cups of the broth and the beans. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and let simmer about five minutes. Taste the broth and adjust gently for seasoning. Add the escarole and stir until just wilted, (add more broth now if you think you need it) taste again for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper as necessary. Add the pancetta back to the soup.
5. Ladle into bowls, and top with cheese, if desired.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Salt Lick

The weather here this weekend turned downright wintry, so soup was on the menu. I've been thinking about lentils lately (because, really, what else would I be thinking about?) and so I knew I wanted to do something with them. I did some surfing, and cobbled together a basic lentil soup with a fancier, more Mediterranean-spiced version, and then decided to throw in some chicken. It turned out great, and I predict it will be on the menu often this winter.

One note of caution: make sure the lid of your 16 oz. Whole Foods Sea Salt container is firmly affixed to the base.

Lentil-Chicken-Vegetable Soup
By Me

For the chicken:
1 lb. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 large bay leaf
Pinch of saffron
Sprig of lemon thyme (regular thyme would be fine)
Water to cover chicken

1. In a large, high-sided skillet, put all of the ingredients. Bring to a low boil.
2. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook til chicken is done, about 10 minutes. It's okay if it's not quite cooked, because it will cook more in the soup. Leave in the water until ready to chop.

For the soup:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 chopped onion
4 chopped carrots
2 chopped celery stalks, with leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
Chopped hot red chili, to taste
4-5 sprigs lemon thyme (regular thyme is fine)
Pinch of saffron
1/2 tsp fennel seed
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 cups shredded savoy cabbage (other mild cabbages would be good, too)
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
1tbsp sherry vinegar
1 cup brown lentils
2 cups chicken broth
Water, as necessary
3 plum tomatoes, halved, seeded, and roasted til soft (optional)
1 lb sea salt (optional, not recommended)

1. In a large dutch oven, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion through a pinch of salt and pepper, and sweat the ingredients until they begin to soften, about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Stir in the cabbage and potatoes, and cook, stirring until cabbage starts to wilt, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar, stir.
3. Add lentils, stir.
4. Remove chicken from poaching liquid, place on cutting board. Carefully pour poaching liquid into pot with lentils. Add chicken broth and water (at least one cup of water; as the lentils cook, you might want to add more depending on whether you want it soupy or stewy).
5. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the lentils are tender, about 25-30 minutes.
6. While soup simmers, chop the chicken and tomatoes into bite sized pieces. Once lentils are tender, add both to soup. Simmer ten minutes.
7. Taste soup to adjust seasonings. If necessary, turn sea salt container over pot, let lid fall off, and dump 15oz salt into pot. Swear loudly and spin in a few circles while trying to figure out what to do, while spouse fights urge to laugh. (okay, I'd probably skip this step next time.) but do taste for seasoning...

I'd tasted the soup enough to know that the broth was wonderful. Sadly, i had to quickly rinse and recreate a broth...but next time I'll know better than to hold the whole salt container over the pot, now won't I? :/

Enjoy!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Temptation

I have been cooking.  A lot.  I just...ahem...haven't been blogging.  Here's a series of photos.  Just leave a comment if you'd like a recipe for any of the dishes, or if you have any questions!
Zucchini and Mint Frittata, Sauteed Zucchini and Mint, Cranberry Beans in Garlic Oil with Sage
                                                           Fresh Peach Crostata
                                                              Blueberry-Peach Crisp
                               Cucumber-Avocado Soup, Salad with Buttermilk-Chive Dressing
                                                     Freshly Shelled Cranberry Beans

                                                                      Pita Bread

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Travel the world's cuisines


It is that time of year.  Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants, oh my!  It feels like it takes forever for this harvest to arrive, but man, when it does...  I love playing around with new recipes to use these ingredients, and revisiting old recipes that we can't get enough of (tomato-mozzarella tart, anyone?).  One of the (many) things I love about these ingredients is that depending upon what you mix them with, you can travel the world's cuisines.

Last night, we had jalapeno-corn "pancakes" with a huge salad of lettuces, radishes, tomatoes, and a buttermilk-chive dressing.  I might, ahem, have let the pancakes dry out a little while warming in the oven.  Oops.  But it turns out that they're really good with the dressing, so all's well that ends well!  (The pancakes are also really, really, REALLY good with maple syrup.  We have them for breakfast frequently during corn season.) 

Tonight, we had an Eastern Mediterranean/Middle Eastern style dinner.  Our local farmer's market had a vendor with lamb, so I bought two lamb shoulder steaks and threw those on the grill.  I rubbed them with raw garlic as soon as they came off the grill, and sprinkled on freshly chopped marjoram.  Paired with a tomato, eggplant, and zucchini bake that I (think) I first saw on Eggs on Sunday  (eggsonsunday.wordpress.com), they made a heavenly dinner.  Add a little fresh ricotta to the top of the vegetables, and you might even convert non-eggplant lovers.  The best thing?  Well, other than how good it tasted?

While the lamb was grilling, I grilled up extra balsamic marinated eggplant and zucchini to freeze for sandwiches during the winter, and I charred poblano peppers to make stuffed poblanos with later this week.  Multiple meals for the price of one grill firing. 

We had the vegetable bake with lamb, but serve it up with crusty bread and a salad of some sort, and you have a wonderful vegetarian dinner.  Since we had it as a side, we had leftovers; they'll probably go in a sandwich with some of that ricotta for breakfast or lunch one day. 

I LOVE August harvest time!

Tomato, Eggplant, and Zucchini Bake
originally seen on Eggs on Sunday (?)

1 medium, firm eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1 medium to large zucchini, cut on a bias into 1/4 inch ovals
2 medium to large tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1/4 cup of olive oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste
fresh and dried herbs of your choosing (I used dried oregano in the baking, and sprinkled on fresh chopped marjoram when it came out of the oven.  Thyme is really good with this, too.)
2 tbsp ricotta per person (optional...but not really)

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine eggplant, zucchini, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper, and any dried herbs.  Toss to coat.

2.  In a large, shallow baking dish, layer the vegetables:  eggplant, zucchini, tomato, repeat.  Do this until the pan is snugly full of vegetables.  (I always have some left over.)  Drizzle over remaining olive oil, and add a little more salt and pepper, if desired.  (The photo at the header of my blog is actually this dish from a year or so ago--if you're wondering about the layers, just take a peek.)

3.  Bake, uncovered, on the middle rack for 25-35 minutes, depending on how caramelized you'd like your vegetables.  Remove from oven, and sprinkle with any fresh herbs you're using.  Dollop individual servings with ricotta cheese, if using.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The sun peeks through

I am frequently amazed at my absolute intolerance for humidity.  You'd never guess that I spent most of my life in Florida from the way I react to the sticky, sodden, heavy air.  Depending on the day, it leaves me cranky and listless, or cranky and full-steam ahead.  Yesterday was the former, at least after I finished getting some plants in the ground, and today is the latter.  It might have something to do with the sun peeking through the clouds today.  It was absent yesterday.  First order of business:  waffles!

I love waffles.  Not those overly-sweet Belgian things that you make at hotels (although those are occasionally nice, too), but savory and out-of-the-ordinary waffles.  There are the chocolate waffles I posted about a few months ago, and then there are cheddar-jalapeno, chicken and cheese, bacon and chive, sausage-cheddar-corn...you get the picture. 

Today's are the sausage-cheddar-corn.  They're inspired by a recipe from Everyday with Rachael Ray, which is where I first got the idea to play around with ingredients.  I've tweaked the recipe to make it slightly healthier...but not too much.

Sausage, Cheddar, and Corn Waffles
adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray
makes 10-12 waffles*

1 cup a.p. flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (can use all a.p.)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
4 tbsp butter, melted
2 large eggs
scant 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
1 cup, 1/4-inch diced, fully cooked sausage of your choice (I used a smoke maple sausage from Dakin Farm...because we'd live at that store if we could)
1/2 cup corn (I used fresh, but you could use frozen--thaw and drain well)

1.  Preheat a nonstick waffle iron, following appliance directions.  (I add cooking spray for insurance, since there's cheese in these.)  Preheat oven to 200 degrees, and place a large, rimmed baking sheet inside.

2.  In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper.  In a medium bowl, beat the buttermilk, butter, and eggs.  Pour into the dry ingredients and stir to form a slightly stiff batter.  Stir in the  cheese, sausage, and corn.

3.  Spoon some batter onto the preheated waffle iron, and follow appliance directions for cooking time.  Cook until golden-brown and crisp.  Repeat with remaining batter, keeping prepared waffles warm in the oven.

*This made 11 waffles for me on the size of waffle iron I used.  Each waffle used slightly less than 1/2 cup of batter.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ready for a little bit of normal





Some things don't always go as planned, do they?  Take, for example, vacations.  We spent the last week up at the farm in New York.  The weather was beautiful, which meant that all of the hard work we had planned was a little harder to get started because we wanted to be outside.  But duty called, so we went to work ripping out the kitchen and upstairs bathroom.  My stepfather worked on the bathroom while Larry worked on the kitchen, and my mom and I shuttled back and forth where we were needed.


Everything should have been done by Thursday night, and Friday through Sunday would be our play-days.  (Well, the kitchen wouldn't be done, but would be ready for the new cabinets to be installed.)  Unfortunately, on Thursday there were two separate accidents with a table saw, and work came to a screeching, bloody halt.  The good news: everyone is going to be fine.  Well, mostly.  Larry's thumb won't ever be the same, but like we keep saying, at least he still has it.

As you might imagine, cooking and blogging haven't been at the top of the list.  But I'm ready for things to get back to a little bit of normal.  Some food favorites:

-Stonewall Kitchen's Maple Chipotle Barbecue Sauce.  Give me a YUM!  We had this slathered all over grilled chicken legs and thighs on Wednesday when my Aunt Cathy and my cousins, Molly, Kelly, and Kelly's family came down.

-parboiling chicken before grilling.  I don't know about you, but sometimes I steer away from grilling chicken because of the fear of charred outside but raw inside.  I don't know why I never thought of parboiling--that's what Moms are for, right!  To teach us simple tricks.  Pop the chicken in a Dutch oven, fill the bottom of the pan with water, (come about 1/4 way up the chicken) clap a lid on it, bring the water to a simmer, and "steam" until the chicken begins to look just cooked on the outside.  Grill with your favorite sauces and seasonings.

-grilled green beans.  You'll need a grilling grate-thingy to do this, obviously, but it's so worth it.  Prep the beans as usual, spread them out evenly on the grilling pan, put them on a medium hot grill, and let'em rip, tossing occasionally so they don't get too charred on one side.  I tossed mine with a little olive oil before grilling, and then at the very end of the grill time added chopped tarragon, salt, and sliced almonds.


-not following recipes to the letter, but using them for inspiration.  I found a recipe on Epicurious for a Lemon-Rosemary-Pancetta Potato Salad, and turned it into a different version of itself.  My version below.

-refrigerator clean-outs that turn into great meals (that might not be particularly photo-worthy, but taste great!).  Last night's was a saute of chopped kale, green onions, eggplant, a tiny bit of leftover tomato, Italian seasoning, a little leftover zucchini, garlic, a half a jalapeno, slivered basil, white wine, salt and pepper, about a cup of rotisserie chicken, and cooked quinoa.  It looked like a hot mess, but was delicious!

-fresh, burstingly ripe tomatoes on the vine, waiting for me when I got home yesterday.  Oh, happy day!


Lemon, Rosemary, and Pancetta Potato Salad
adapted from Bon Appetit

2-3 pounds baby potatoes, or Yukon Gold potatoes
3 oz chopped (1/4 inch) pancetta, (you'll reserve about a tbsp of fat)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp minced rosemary
2 tbsp olive oil
zest of a lemon, juice from at least half  (more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp chopped parsley

1.  Cover the potatoes with cold water, bring to a boil, and cook until done.  The baby potatoes took about 15 minutes; the Yukon Golds will take longer because they're larger.  When finished, drain and put back in hot pot.  If using Yukons, cut into bite-sized pieces.

2.  In a small skillet, cook the pancetta until almost crisp.  Spoon off all but about 1 tbsp oil.  About a minute before done, add the garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in the olive oil and lemon juice, whisking to semi-emulsify.  Scrape the pancetta mixture over the potatoes, add the zest, and toss all together.  Taste, and add extra salt and pepper and lemon juice to taste.  Add parsley, toss again.  Let cool to room temperature, and serve.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Share. Or not.

Summer means cherries.  And raspberries, blueberries, nectarines, peaches...  There is nothing like the fruits of summer.  Maybe this is because the only way I'll eat them after summer is over is if I pull them frozen from my freezer, but when summer fruit season rolls around, I am the true definition of a glutton.  I have all of the above in my kitchen right now, and it takes all of my will-power not to hunker down on a stool and eat my way through them. 

Tonight, I'm not resisting.


Mixed Summer Fruit Salad

1/2-1 cup blueberries
1 nectarine, pitted and chopped
1 cup cherries, pitted and quartered
1/2-1 cup raspberries
1 tbsp mint, slivered (or sliced into a chiffonade)
up to 1 tbsp honey
lime zest (optional)
1 cup Greek yogurt

1.  Mix the first seven ingredients together very gently  in a medium bowl.
2.  Spoon 1/4 c yogurt into each of 4 small bowls.  Evenly divide the fruit salad on top of the yogurt.  Share.  (Or not...)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Of weeds, flowers, and zucchini

I admit it.  I am the world's worst grower of zucchini.  It's ironic, really, that everyone talks about the glut of summer squash produced by every home gardener...and I'm lucky if I get a single baby zucchini from three plants.  Oh well.  Fortunately, others grow zucchini really well so I can still cook with it. 

Tonight I used a medium zucchini in a chicken and corn chili.  Earlier this week, I used one shaved into ribbons and tossed with spaghetti and a light tomato sauce.  I love how versatile it is in the kitchen.  One of my favorite recipes last year was an Orange Zucchini Bread from Cooking Light.  I'm pretty sure we still have a loaf of it in the freezer...maybe I'll pull that out before I start this year's batch...

I've been cooking sporadically the last few weeks.  It's happening, but none of it is worth writing home about, or posting here, for that matter.  Tonight's chili got rave reviews from a guest (okay, full disclosure, it was my dad) so I figured, why not?

Mostly what I've been doing, though, is gardening.  I'm ripping out a weed patch in a semi-circular area in front of our farmhouse in upstate New York, and trying to turn it into a both edible and ornamental garden.  So far the beetles find it veeeery edible.  Grumble.  But I do have some beautiful lilies blooming, and the herbs I've planted seem happy.  It's hard gardening at a place that you can't tend to every day; I worry that it will suffer from the neglect necessitated by distance.



I am not, however, worried about some of the weeds that are there.  I realize that sounds odd, but I've decided that some of the "weeds" are really just lovely wildflowers, and I'm letting them stay.  There are the usual suspects, like Black-Eyed Susans and Queen Anne's Lace, but then there is also one called Bouncing Bet, or Soapwort.  It smells almost sugary sweet, and it's little blooms are so pretty.  It has a mostly tidy habit, and when it starts a colony, it's lush and full.  It has very conveniently sited itself in corners and crannies that suit it perfectly (or suit my aesthetic taste perfectly, I suppose).



Another wildflower, Purple Vetch, I couldn't eradicate if I tried.  It's often grown as a cover crop to fix nitrogen in the soil, but ours is popping up wildly around the barn and garage buildings.  It reminds me of Jacob's Ladder, which I love.  Again, another "weed" that I can live with.  It's all in how we look at things, isn't it?



Chicken, Corn and Zucchini Chili
by Me  (serves 4)

1 tbsp vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or a mix, cut into bite-sized pieces
up to 1 tsp of salt, sprinkled on in stages
4 garlic scapes, chopped, or two cloves garlic, minced
1 c of chopped onion
1/4 cup of chopped scallions
1 to 2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, with about 1 tsp of sauce, chopped (depends on your heat tolerance--I used about 1 1/2)
up to 1 tbsp of chili powder; I used a mix of a Cocoa Chili Blend (Mccormicks) and regular chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1 medium zucchini, chopped/cubed
2 cups of frozen or fresh corn, defrosted if frozen
2 cups black beans, only partly drained
1 cup chicken broth, or 3/4 c broth and 1/4 c beer (I used Newcastle...it's what I was drinking)
1 1/2 tsp honey
juice of half a lime (necessary), and lime wedges for garnish (optional)
chopped scallions and grated cheddar to garnish (optional)

1.  Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  When shimmering, add the chicken.  Let it brown on all sides, then sprinkle with salt and add the garlic through the coriander.  Let this cook for about 2 minutes, so the onions start to soften and the spices start to get toasty.

2.  Add the zucchini, corn, beans, a little more salt, and beer (if using).  Stir together, scraping bottom of the pan with the spoon to get up the brown bits.  When the beer is cooked down, add the broth.  (If only using broth, add all at once and commence with scraping!).  Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low, add a little more salt and add the honey.  (Taste to see if you might want more-honey and/or salt.)  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the chili starts to thicken.  Just before serving, stir in the lime juice.  Top with scallions and cheddar, if using, and serve with a lime wedge to squeeze over at the table.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Day Outdoors

Whew.  There's a lot to do in the garden right now.  With the rain and sun we've had, conditions have been great for plant growth.  Every shrub in our yard is (was) overgrown, and the grass was tall enough to lose a dog in, in some spots.  While mowing, edging, and sweeping are not my favorite garden tasks, they're necessary, so I did them today.  Strangely, I like pruning.  Half of the shrubs are now done, and the other half are for later.  I save my favorite things for last.

The tomatoes have had an attack of early blight and septoria leaf spot; fortunately, organic practices allow for the use of copper fungicides, so all is not lost.  I sprayed them yesterday, and though it's probably my imagination, they look better today.  These two diseases can be nasty, because they can defoliate the plant if left untreated.  But the worst is late blight, which wiped out tomato crops in the Northeast a few years ago. It spreads unbelievably quickly, so I'm keeping a vigilant eye out.  I'm fairly sure my heart would break if I lost all the tomato plants.

The peppers are threatening to actually do something this year!  I am a notoriously poor pepper grower, but this year I vowed to be better.  I planted them out under row covers, and kept them there for quite some time so they'd be warm and cozy.  The Jimmy Nardello and Carmen peppers are already fruiting, which is the earliest I've ever seen them go.  The one lone bell pepper...well, it's still only the end of June.

I picked our peas today; they didn't do well in the raised bed I had them in, so we only got about a cup and a half when shelled.  But they were tasty mixed into our salad tonight, so I definitely don't count them a loss.  I'll plant them again toward the end of August, so we can (hopefully) have a fall crop.  The bed they're in is going to be overhauled when I pull them out, but I'm not sure what's going in there next.  Beets and turnips, maybe?  The anticipation is half of the fun.

At the end of the day, there was sadly no one around to cook for us, so I decided to grill some pizzas.  I'd defrosted some pizza dough overnight, which made the process really easy.  I had about a pound of dough, so I quartered it, rolled it out, and threw it on the grill with some braised leeks (another Smitten Kitchen-by-way-of-Orangette recipe), prosciutto, parmigiano, and arugula.  A drizzle of olive oil over the top, and we had dinner (and lunch tomorrow!).

If you're interested in grilling pizza, just take your favorite dough, cut it into individual-serving blobs, roll out to the desired thickness (I usually do thin crust--it cooks quicker!), and let sit, covered, while you get the grill ready.  The grill should be at its highest heat, and the grates should be really, really clean.  Just before throwing the dough on, swipe the grates with a high-heat oil like canola.  Place the individual pizzas, no toppings, on the grates, close the lid, and grill for about 3 minutes.  Don't walk away from the grill, though, and keep an eye on them.  They go from done to charcoal pretty quickly.  Pull them off the grill, flip them uncooked side down on a platter, and put on your toppings.  Use a light hand, though, because toppings slide down between the grill grates pretty easily.  Ahem.  Put the pizzas back on the grill and close the lid.  Cook for another 3 or so minutes, and dinner is done!

We were going to grill pizzas a few weeks ago when we had company, but we ran out of propane it was so hot out (how embarrassing when company is over!) we decided to do them in the oven, instead.  Or it was decided for us, as it were.  Equally tasty, so no complaints.

Happy growing and eating!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Strawberry Everything


While I often fail miserably at eating seasonally with vegetables (there are only so many root vegetables one can eat during the course of six months, even when one loves them) I'm pretty good about it with fruit.  (Except for bananas--I buy those all year.)  More dramatically than any other foods, for me anyway, fruits taste exponentially better when they're in season.  Living in New England, I have the opportunity to go and pick most of the fruits that I eat, which adds a whole other dimension of fun for me.

Two Sundays ago, we picked strawberries at Russell Orchards in Ipswich.  Heading to Russell anytime is a full-day affair: we pick whatever is in season, and then tool around the antique shops or take a road we haven't taken before.  And since a tip from a friend, no visit is complete without a stop at Farnham's for lobster and fried clams.  Ooo!  And let's not forget Down River Ice Cream.  I can't talk about them, or I'll have to stop blogging and get in the car.

As you might imagine, I don't pick anything in moderation.  If it turns out we've picked too much...who am I kidding, it never turns out we've picked too much.  That's what the freezer, jams, and sauces are for!  So we picked four quarts of strawberries.  We've eaten a few out of hand, but I've also made two kinds of muffins, made scones twice, froze a quart, and made this obscenely wonderful Strawberry Summer Cake from Smitten Kitchen.  (Trust me, make this right now. )
http://smittenkitchen.com/2011/05/strawberry-summer-cake/

The first batch of muffins I made tasted really good, but had a textural issue were like hockey pucks.  Lately, I like a little bit of a challenge when it comes to baking (this must mean I'm learning!) so I decided to tinker with the recipe.  One word: yum.

Make'em all, and call it a Strawberry Fiesta!  Thrown in a little Limoncello muddled with strawberries, and you've got yourself a fine summer party.

Strawberry Lemon Muffins
(adapted from http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/blueberry-peach-muffins/detail.aspx  And now you have the peach-blueberry recipe I use, too!)

1 1/2 c. each all-purpose and whole wheat flour
1/2 c. each granulated and slightly packed brown sugar, plus 1 heaped tsp.
1 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2-1 tsp of ground ginger (if you wanted to spike this, you could add some finely chopped crystalized ginger)
2 cups sliced strawberries
zest of one lemon
3 eggs
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c. melted butter

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare 12 or 16 muffin tins--your call.  The 12 will just barely rise and bake into each other, but not so badly that they're a challenge to separate.  The 16 will be very nicely behaved, normal sized muffins.

1.  Toss the sliced strawberries with the heaped teaspoon of sugar and the lemon zest.  Set aside.
2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted butter.
4.  Add the egg  mixture to the flour mixture, and combine almost completely--leave some streaks so that the muffins don't become over-mixed when you add the strawberries.
5.  Add the strawberries to the batter (including any juices) and mix until just barely combined--it's okay if there are some small streaks of flour.
6.  Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.  Bake 18-20 minutes for the 16 muffins, or 20-25 minutes for the 12 muffins.  Cool on wire rack.

Strawberry Scones
(I can't find the source of this recipe.  I apologize for that--if it's your recipe, please leave a comment so I can properly cite you! It's original incarnation is Peach-Pecan Scones.)

1 large egg
1/3 c milk
2 tsp honey
1/3 c finely chopped strawberries (heaped)  or you can use peeled peaches
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c firmly packed brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 c finely chopped, toasted pecans
turbinado sugar, for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a large sheet pan with cooking spray, or line it with parchment paper.
1.  Whisk together the egg, milk, and honey in a small bowl.  Add strawberries.  Set aside.
2.  In a large mixing bowl, mix flours, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or two knives, or rub in with your fingers) until pea-sized clumps form.
3.  Stir in pecans and milk mixture just until dough begins to come together (I usually start with a spoon, and then get in there and mix gently with my hands).
4.  Place dough on a well-floured surface and form a ball.  Pat into a round about 1/2 inch thick.  Slice into 8 equal wedges.  Transfer to baking sheet, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar, if using.  Bake 20-25 minutes or til golden brown around edges.  Cool on wire rack.

...and last but not least, Strawberry Summer Cake Trifle!
Believe it or not, we didn't take down all of the summer cake (link above) when I made it.  We were having company, so I thought a quick version of a trifle might be a nice pretty delicious excuse for eating lots of whipped cream along with this cake.  The beauty of it?  You can make as much or as little as you want, since it all depends on how much of the cake you use.

Strawberry Summer Cake, crumbled into chunks and bits
Whipped Cream, barely sweetened (not Cool Whip--too over-powering for this)
sliced strawberries, tossed with a little sugar
(I used most of the cake, 4 cups of whipped cream, and 2 cups of sliced strawberries tossed with 2 tsp of sugar)
In a trifle dish or other high-sided bowl, layer half of the cake, half of the strawberries and the juice that formed, and half of the whipped cream.  Repeat, ending with whipped cream.  Chill for about an hour, so the strawberry juice can seep into the cake.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Spring-into-summer green





It's that time of year when the greens you so carefully nurtured on your sunny windowsill in February are bolting and heading to seed.  Tomatoes are little green nubbins on their plants, and the Art Deco-looking garlic scapes are pleading with you to use them in stir-fries and egg dishes.  In our yard, it's the utter definition of "Eating Green" since everything ready to eat right now comes in shades of that color.  Except for the two Thai Dragon peppers that came from the over-wintered plant; those are miniscule pops of red on the cutting board.

The greens in the bag above are from the mustard plants I started in the house this year.  I don't know yet what I'll do with them, but whatever it is I'm already looking forward to it!  Tonight's dinner comes from our yard, the Braintree Farmer's Market, and our CSA share.  It will be a stir-fry of radishes, snow peas, English peas, garlic scapes, scallions, those Thai Dragon peppers, and a mix of small "braising" greens like bok choy, mizuna, and red kale.  I don't know if I'll add some chopped rotisserie chicken or not; we might not need it. 

Throw in some ginger, soy sauce, lemon verbena and sesame oil to taste, and some cilantro and Thai basil if you have it. Served over Basmati rice, I think this is the epitome of fresh, spring eating.  

Well, until I get some fresh asparagus tomorrow, anyway.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

We have seven and a half days of school left.  That is my excuse for not posting in a very long time.  It's a lame one, but the only one I have, so please pretend it explains everything!

We're still eating some from the garden.  We had a simple arugula salad with a red wine vinegar dressing one day last week, used some basil in a pasta dish, and some cilantro on taco night.  The beans, greens, shallots, garlic, tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, and squash are all planted and I'm shifting into tending versus planting mode.  I love this part of the season, as sprouts shoot up and plants seem to grow many inches over night.  This is the first year I've planted potatoes; they went in sometime in April (May?  Ugh, this is why I'm supposed to be better at keeping up with my garden journal.) and are beginning to flower.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the spuds continue to do well.  I occasionally have nightmares about Colorado Potato Beetles, and am hoping that because this is our first year together, the bugs won't find us.

Tonight, I knew dinner was going to use the rest of the spinach from our Spring Treat Share (over, but our full-season share starts tomorrow!) along with some tomatoes (I told you--eventually I cave) and pasta for dinner.  Beyond that...well, I wasn't finding any inspiration.  I flipped to the index in my Cooking Light 2009 recipes book, and lo and behold, there was a recipe for Spinach and Tomato Macaroni and Cheese.  It called for ziti, spinach, tomatoes, half and half, garlic, and blue cheese.  I had no ziti or blue cheese, and quickly learned, after a sniff, that I didn't have any half-and-half anymore, either.

Crud.

But!  I did have skim milk, mascarpone, and fontina.  And I had a twisty pasta called strozzapreti.  So a new recipe was born.  I have to admit, it's a little more fattening than the Cooking Light version.  But oh, so tasty!  And I quadrupled the spinach, so that balances it out some, right?


Creamy Spinach and Tomato Macaroni and Cheese
adapted from Cooking Light   serves 4

10 oz short-cut pasta, such as ziti or penne, cooked al dente
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
pinch of nutmeg, freshly grated if you have it
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c mascarpone cheese
4 oz fontina cheese, shredded (pop it in the freezer for 15 minutes to make it easier)
2 tbsp milk
4-6 cups fresh spinach, chopped

1.  While the pasta water is coming to a boil, heat the olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the red pepper flakes and the garlic, and cook, stirring, about one minute.  Add the tomatoes and a pinch of the salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. 
2.  Add the mascarpone, fontina, milk, and nutmeg and stir, melting the cheeses into the tomatoes and garlic.  Add the spinach and the rest of the salt and stir until the spinach is wilted.  Mix in the pasta, and serve.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sauce that would make shoe leather taste good

But we had it with pork chops.  We picked up two of those at the farmers' market on Sunday, too, along with some asparagus (that stuff just makes me happy) and those were dinner tonight.  I wasn't sure what to do with the chops tonight, but I wanted to do more than just grill them.  I surfed through some of the Rachael Ray cookbooks I have (she does yummy things with pork chops) and found this sauce.  I goofed, and didn't read the recipe all the way through, so I added butter to the sauce.  The butter was for the other part of the recipe, but, um...yeah. I'd make this sauce the exact same way next time.

Orange-Rosemary Sauce
from Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats

zest and juice of a naval orange
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 rosemary sprigs, stripped and chopped; about 1 tablespoon (I went a little lighter)
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (I used 1/4)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp butter  (You could leave this out.  But I wouldn't.)

1.  Add all ingredients except butter to a medium saucepan; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is reduced by half.
2.  Stir in butter, and reduce for another 2-3 minutes.  Use to baste pork chops or chicken (or shoe leather).

Monday, May 23, 2011

It could definitely be worse.

Before we talk food, let's talk weather.  More exactly, let's talk what we can do when we feel helpless in the face of tornadoes and floods and earthquakes and tsunamis and...well, you get it. 
  • Donate to a disaster relief charity.  JustGive.org makes this easy, and you can donate                          anonymously.
  • Host a fund-raising activity: a walk or run, a field day, a "pay what you'd donate" dinner at                      someone's home, a bake sale.  Then see #1.
  • Donate time at a food bank or animal shelter.  It may not directly affect the disaster areas, but it         still helps people in need.
  •  If you can, fly to the area in need and pitch in.  I'm guessing you could contact the American Red Cross and ask about volunteer options.
  •  Find out about the soup kitchens, food banks, and animal shelters in the affected areas, and send a shipment of food, blankets, chew toys, etc.
Get creative.  Any little thing can help in big ways.

As you might imagine, after this morning's news about Joplin, MO, I don't really have the heart to whine about how it's grey and cool here for the fourth week in a row.  It does stink, but really, I'd have to be rating high on the suckitude meter to go there right now.  So instead, I cook. 

The chopping, the smells, the sizzles all help with the blues.  We had friends over for dinner this weekend, and I spatchcocked a chicken (which, I'm serious, is maybe the coolest cooking term EVER) for the first time, rubbed it up with garlic and lemon a la Nigel Slater (am currently addicted to his cookbooks and writing), and grilled the bird until the skin was crispy and the meat was tender.  I did not, of course, eat all of the skin myself.  Ahem.  Or at least not every little bit of it.

I served it up with a Jerusalem Artichoke and Farro Risotto from Janet Fletcher's book Eating Local, and we were very happy indeed.  The bottle of Pinot Grigio helped with that, of course...



Tonight, I'm back to playing with lentils.  I love legumes (wouldn't that make a great t-shirt?) and use them often, but get stuck in the black bean-cannellini rotation.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, per se, but there are so many other options out there that it seems a shame not to explore every so often.  Also this weekend, we went to one of our local farmers' markets and picked up a package of stew lamb; my head went straight to a lamb and lentil stew.  At first I was thinking Italian overtones (because that's pretty much what I always think of first) and then I decided to do some searching and see what else was out there.  I read quite a few Indian-inspired recipes, and from those cobbled together this one.  The pound of stew lamb will feed six, but you can also up the veggies and lentils and leave the lamb out entirely without the dish suffering.

Indian-Spiced Lamb and Lentil Stew
serves 6
1 lb lamb stew meat, cut into small chunks (can omit, just up the lentils and veg)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced (I used 2 small leeks, since we had some in the fridge)
2 med. to large carrots, peeled and diced
2 sticks celery, diced
2 in. knob of ginger, peeled and minced or grated
1 tbsp curry powder (or more to taste)
1/2 tbsp garam masala (or more to taste)
1- 3" cinnamon stick
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4-1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
15 oz. can diced, no salt tomatoes (if yours aren't no salt, just wait to add all of the salt you think you might want)
1 cup of lentils
6 cups of liquid (I used a mix of water and chicken broth)
10 oz frozen, chopped spinach (no need to thaw)
1/4 cup golden raisins
basmati rice to serve, optional

1.  In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat.  When shimmering, add lamb.  Cook until browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove lamb from pot.

2.  Add 2 tbsp oil, and minced garlic through cayenne pepper (remember to go easy on the salt at this point).  Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes.  Return lamb to pan, and stir in lentils and tomatoes.  Add 6 cups of liquid and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan with your spoon to get up the bits that have stuck.  Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until lamb and lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. 

3.  Stir in spinach and raisins; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 more minutes.  Serve hot over rice, if desired.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Friendly ideas

I was talking books with a fellow foodie from work today, and she inserted a sidebar about what she made for dinner last night. Imagine how excited I was when 1. It sounded delicious, and 2. I realized I had everything I needed to make it. As soon as I got home I pulled the ingredients out of their respective homes and got to work. The kitchen smelled amazing immediately, and dinner was ready in less than an hour. Thanks, Amy!

I did take pictures. I will post them (I'm on the iPAD and don't have a compatible USB) but I should warn you that they absolutely don't do the meal justice. Just trust me and go out and make this.

I'll include vegetarian options, too.

Lentils with Italian Sausages and Potatoes
Serves 5

1/4 c olive oil
5 Italian sausages (pork, chicken, or turkey are fine, or omit)
1/2 to whole yellow onion*, quartered, peeled, and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 lb. Potatoes, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced (optional-I didn't use b/c I wanted dinner quickly)
2 stalks celery, diced (optional-see carrots)
3/4 - 1 1/2 c lentils (I used the smaller French green, but it doesn't really matter)
15 oz can diced no-salt tomatoes (or whatever size the can has shrunk to these days)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/4 - 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 c dry red wine (optional, could add a shot of balsamic at the end instead)
3 c chicken or vegetable broth, or water (up this to 4 - 5 if using more lentils)
3-5 c shredded greens (I used raddichio, but kale, mustard,chard, broccoli Rabe, etc would be good here)
Grated pecorino romano cheese

1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. If using, brown sausages on all sides, about
5 minutes. Add in onion through celery and cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add lentils through liquid and stir. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the lentils are tender, about 20-25 minutes. (I let ours go for about 35 minutes because we walked the dogs. The sauce reduced nicely, but your call.)
3. Stir in the greens and let cook through. The more tender greens like raddichio and chard will take less than five minutes; the others probably closer to ten.
4. Spoon into bowls, sprinkle with cheese, and serve hot. You might want bread to mop up the juices...
* The larger veggie portions are for if you're making this vegetarian (or if you need to serve more than five people; you can cut the sausages up)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Eating from the Garden: Spring

Remember that chard that was going to need its own zip code soon?  We ate it.  It made me kind of sad to pull it up since the colors were so vibrant, but it was living where the tomatoes have been rotated this year and it was time to plant the tomatoes.  I chopped it up with about a 1/4 cup of chives from the garden, sauteed it in olive oil with garlic, salt, and pepper, and once it was wilted, added about 1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth to "braise" it in until the accompanying polenta was ready.  After a productive-but-exhausting day in the garden, it was a warm bowl of goodness.

I've been doing all kinds of cooking lately, but for some reason have photographed none of it.  Of course, when I look at the photographs on the blogs I enjoy I realize that my missing photos are no great loss.  Still working on that light-and-positioning thing for food...  I hope that since the food tastes good, though, it doesn't really matter if the photos are magazine-worthy or not; as long as the combo of ingredients is enough to make people want to experiment, that's (mostly) good enough for me.


We've been on a rhubarb kick around here lately, since the garden is being generous on that front.  I first planted rhubarb because I thought it was pretty, and had ideas of making strawberry-rhubarb pies with it.  Strangely, I've made nary a one...but I have made Oatmeal-Rhubarb Breakfast Porridge and Peach-Rhubarb Crisp.  I've also made a garden salad with roasted rhubarb, and today made Rhubarb Snacking Cake with Walnut Streusel.  The first three recipes are from this month's Eating Well magazine, and they were big hits.  The snack cake is from Cooking Light, and is a pan-full of moist, sweet goodness...but it has almost two cups of sugar, so I wouldn't boast that it's "light" even if it did come from that magazine.  (I'll post links to the recipes below.)
You can just barely see it, but the bits of rhubarb add a spring-green color to the cake (the rhubarb I'm currently growing is primarily green; I've got a red plant on order, though, because let's be honest--it's gorgeous).  Not ordinarily a color I'd want with my cake...but a long, gray winter makes me more flexible about uses of color.
The above egg picture is from a recipe I made weeks ago, and never posted.  I also have sorrel in my garden, and it is one of the earliest things to start rearing its lovely, verdant head in spring.  As the first green I can eat out of my own garden, I have to say I'm pretty fond of it.  I grew it on a lark; read about it in a catalog and thought, "Why not?  If it's good enough for the French, it's good enough for me!"  Then it came up, and I thought, "Okay, what the hell do I do with this?"  A search led me to this baked egg dish.
It's easy and delicious, and it makes a great presentation if you're having company.  You might have to grow your own sorrel, though, because I've never seen it in markets anywhere.  I'm thinking you could substitute spinach.

Baked Eggs with Sorrel
serves 2 (but is easily multiplied)

1 tbsp butter, for ramekins
2 cups chopped sorrel
2 large eggs
2 tsp heavy cream (but I've also used skim milk, and even cream cheese, in a pinch)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp chopped chives

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Rub the insides of two ramekins with the butter, and divide the sorrel between them.  Bake in the oven until the sorrel is completely wilted, about 5-8 minutes.  (It will be a camouflage green and almost look like something has gone horribly awry.  Not to worry.)
2.  Crack an egg into each ramekin, and add a teaspoon of cream to each.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until the eggs are set to your taste; for firm whites but still moderately runny yolks (how I like them) bake about 10 minutes (start checking at 8, though, because it's a different dish once the yolks set--not bad, but different).
3.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with chives, and enjoy.

Rhubarb-Sour Cream Cake with Walnut Streusel
http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/rhubarb-sour-cream-snack-cake-with-walnut-streusel-10000001734282/

Eating Well rhubarb recipes
http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/roasted_rhubarb_salad.html
http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/oatmeal_rhubarb_porridge.html
http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/peach_rhubarb_crisp.html

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Where have you been all my life?


May 1 was all I could have possibly hoped it would be.  Sunny, but not too hot, with time for gardening, cooking, and ice cream.  The cooking included some of my own greens, which is always exciting.  The seedlings I planted back in February are doing great under their row cover, I've got potatoes and shallots coming up, and the chard that over-wintered will need its own zip code soon. 




                                         Photo from about a week ago; they're double now!


I love summer, but I think this might be my favorite time of year.  After waiting through the long winter (and they're always long, even when the weather isn't brutal) there are flowers everywhere.  Getting back into the garden is still a novelty (as opposed to August, when it's disgustingly hot and less of a novelty...except for the tomatoes, of course) and I gladly spend the entire day kneeling in the dirt, even if it's just for mundane clean-up tasks. 

Today, I planted four new (to my garden) kinds of lilies: Sorbonne, Royal Sunset, Richmond, and Cherbourg.  Lilies are a new obsession of mine; during the winter I was ogling the multitude of gardening catalogs I get each year and the lilies just kept catching my eye.  We have eight different kinds here at the house now; I hope they'll put on a lovely display! 

Those who know me well know that the Cherbourg lilies were a given once I knew they existed.  Cherbourg was one of the stops of the Titanic, and I'm a bit of a Titanic nerd.  (Titanic, gardening, cooking, and reading: could my husband have a nerdier nerd for a wife?  Oh well, his yard looks good and he eats well!) 

In the midst of all that digging, I occasionally ran into the house, scrubbed my hands, and made breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Lunch was grilled hot dogs, but not just any grilled hot dogs.  I signed us up for Pine Street Market's Meat of the Month Club, and this month we received plain hot dogs, poblano hot dogs, and Italian sausage.  The plain hot dogs were incredible (we haven't opened the others yet)!  Even if you don't do the M.O.M. club, do yourself a favor and order some of these dogs for a special cook-out this summer.

For dinner, we had Jamie Oliver's slow roasted bone-in pork shoulder, with carrots and potatoes.  (You can find it here: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pork-recipes/bone-in-shoulder-roast .)  The recipe calls for the skin to be left on, so that you can make crackling.  Oh. My. God.  Where has crackling been all my life?  I don't think I've ever had it before, and heaven knows I shouldn't have it again anytime soon, but I'm in love.  I served it up with a mix of swiss chard and sorrel from my garden, and spinach from our CSA.  (I skipped the gravy for the meat, and I threw the potatoes in to roast when I added the other veg.)


And now, I'm going to sleep. 

Mixed Greens with Warm Bacon* and Onions
Serves 4

10 cups chopped mixed greens with water still clinging to them, such as swiss chard, spinach, sorrel, or     others that cook quickly  (this is probably about 1 1/2 pounds of greens)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 strips of bacon, chopped
1 onion, sliced in half lengthwise and then sliced into 1/4 inch pieces lengthwise (or whatever, really)
         --I used the onion that was in the pan with the pork roast, sliced it up, and added it once the bacon was
        cooked
1-2 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add olive oil, onion and bacon.  Cook until bacon is almost crispy.  Spoon off all but 1-2 tbsp fat, and add the vinegar to the pan.  Stir to kind of emulsify the oil and vinegar, and add the greens and salt and pepper to taste. 
2.  Cook, tossing the greens with the "dressing" until the greens are just wilted.  Serve immediately.

*As always, you could omit the bacon, up the olive oil, and use mushrooms instead.  It would be equally good, and I'm thinking it would be divine with trumpet mushrooms.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Remember that bread that didn't quite work the way the recipe said it would I made that I used the wrong flour for...?  It turned out great.  Fortunately, I've made bread before so I knew the texture I wanted for kneading--it was just a matter of adding more flour.  And then some more.  And then...you get the picture.  We had it with berry preserves for a snack mid-morning today, and used it in grilled cheese for lunch.  Phew.

The Farro and Roasted Root Vegetable dish from David Lebovitz was great, too.  (www.davidlebovitz.com)  Thank heavens I'd done the prep work for it (read: roasted the vegetables and cooked the farro, and then refrigerated them separately) because after digging over 40 holes in the stoniest soil I've ever seen, and making sure that 40 plants were firmly secured in their new homes in the earth, and then hoisting all the mini-boulders and rock-wall-sized boulders over to the property's rock walls, there wasn't going to be much cooking going on around here!  I sauteed up a chicken breast (one for the two of us...that bird was on steroids or something) and tossed the veggies and farro together, and called it dinner.  At 9 p.m. 

Guess what we're doing again tomorrow?  Yep, planting more trees.  Hey, it's Earth Day-and-Easter weekend--what better way to celebrate the two?

Other than with maple smoked ham and stuffed artichokes, of course.

If you've never had a whole artichoke, they can seem daunting.  I grew up eating these (Italian side of the family) and they're one of my favorite spring foods.  I took the recipe out of The North End Italian Cookbook by Marguerite DiMino Buonopane, and it consistently comes out just like I remember the ones my great aunts made.  I think I may even be converting Larry, who was hesitant about them at first.

Please try them--if you like artichoke hearts, you'll love this!

Stuffed Artichokes
(from The North End Cookbook, adapted by Me)
serves 2-4

2 whole artichokes, cleaned (see below)
1 lemon half
1/4 c olive oil, divided
3 small cloves of garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 cup of moderately fine breadcrumbs (I've used homemade and the ones from a paper can--I like'em both)
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup shredded parmigiano (or Grana Padano)

1.  Heat 3 tbsp olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning in a medium skillet over moderate to low heat. When the garlic just starts to sizzle and give off its aroma, add the breadcrumbs.  Toss and toast for about 3-5 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and let cool a few minutes.  Toss with the cheese.    
2.  Holding the artichoke steady, with the same hand, gently spread out two to three of the bottom layer of leaves.  Sprinkle in a small amount of the breadcrumb mixture, about a teaspoon.  Repeat until the bottom layer is "stuffed" (you don't want a ton of breadcrumbs in each layer; just enough to fill the bottom where the leaf joins the rest of the choke).  Move into the next layer, and so on, until you get to the fine leaves at the center.  Open gently but don't worry about separating every leaf, and pack in a final bit of breadcrumbs.  Repeat with the next artichoke.  Drizzle the tops with the remaining tbsp olive oil.
3.  In a saucepan large enough to hold the two artichokes side by side, add 1 cup of water.  Thrown in the peeled artichoke stems and the squeezed lemon; nestle the artichokes in.  Bring the water to a boil, put the lid on and reduce the heat.  Keep the water at a simmer for 40-60 minutes.  Start testing at 40 by tugging on a leaf near the center of the choke.  If it slips out easily, the artichokes are done.  Remove from the pan and let cool (along with the stems). 
4.  How to eat:  pull the leaves out one at a time, and grasping the base of the leaf firmly between your teeth, but with some give, "strip" the breading and the fleshy part from the artichoke--don't eat the whole leaf--it's tough.  Repeat until you get to the tender center leaves--some of these you can eat whole.  When you've stripped the choke down to the almost-center, you'll be faced with the fuzzy actual "choke."  DO NOT EAT THIS.  Prickly central...  Using a spoon, scrape all of the fuzzy, small, prickly leaves out.  Once cleaned out, you're left with the artichoke bottom. DO EAT THIS!!!!!!

How to clean an artichoke:
1.  Cut the stem off of the artichoke where it joins the globe.  Peel the stem and rub with the cut side of the lemon.  Rub the cut side of the lemon on the base of the globe, too. 
2.  Cut the top of the globe off, about 1 inch of it.  I usually rinse with cold water, shake dry, and then rub the top with the lemon. 
3.  Turn the globe stem-side up, and bang the top of it (leaf-side down) firmly against the counter (kind of like you would with iceberg lettuce to get the core out).  This will loosen the leaves, making it easier for stuffing.  Dribble lemon juice all over the top.  Proceed with recipe.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Moderation? What for?

The past week was another one of those weeks when just getting to Friday was a big deal.  But we made it, and now we're on vacation.  Larry took the week off, and I'm on Spring Break, so we spent the first few days getting things done around home, and then took off for the house in upstate New York.  I'm trying to pretend that I don't see snow flurries out of the window right now, but really there's nothing to worry about.  It's been flurrying all day, but not a thing is sticking...maybe because it's about 48 degrees.  The sun even occasionally peeks its head out, and will apparently be spending the day with us tomorrow.  Which is good, because we have something like over 40 plants to pick up at the local plant sale and get into the ground.  Moderation?  What for?


I did actually cook one day last week (more than one, but reheating doesn't really count, does it?).  Friday, I think.  It was a quick and easy pasta dish that was great reheated for lunch today.  Up here at the NY house, we don't have a microwave.  I have to say that I think the reheated pasta was even better because I had to do it on the stove top with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil to keep anything from sticking. 


This morning I started the day by baking bread.  Normally a relaxing endeavor, this time it was more of a frantic, "OhmygodthishastoworkI'vealreadyputinfourcupsofflourwhyisitstillsosticky?" thing.  Surprisingly (okay, not surprisingly) it was a baker's error and not the recipe (dammit).  I was so focused on the "whole wheat" part of the flour label that I somehow missed the "bread flour" part of the label.  Sadly, whole wheat and whole wheat bread flour are not the same beast. 

But have I mentioned my almost pathological inability to waste food?  There was no way I was chucking that shaggy, sticky pile of goo.  I just kept adding small bits of flour and kneading, and hoped for the best.  We haven't tasted it yet, but it rose correctly, smelled great while baking, and sounds appropriately hollow.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.  (If not, I'll make a loooot of croutons...)

I also roasted the vegetables for a farro and vegetable salad that I found on David Lebovitz's site; we're having that for dinner.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Whole Wheat Penne with Italian Sausage*, Sundried Tomatoes, and Spinach
by Me      serves 4

8 oz. whole wheat penne or other short cut pasta
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for finishing
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, reconstituted with boiling water and then sliced thinly; save some of the
                                         water, about 1/2 cup
3 grilled Italian sausages*, sliced thinly (I used pork, but chicken or turkey would be good;
                      you could also omit it and sub in mushrooms--brown them before adding the garlic and onions)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. fresh spinach, cleaned and stemmed
parmigiano-reggiano cheese, for serving

1.  Bring water for pasta to a boil; salt if desired.  Cook pasta until just shy of al dente, following package directions for guidance.
2.  While pasta water comes to a boil, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes (do mushrooms first, if using) and saute until softening, about 3 minutes.  Add wine and cook until pan is almost dry again; add sausages and tomatoes, and salt and pepper.  Add a splash of the tomato water to make things glisten. 
3.  Scoop the pasta straight from the water into the skillet; it's okay if water clings.  Add the spinach and start tossing; add a little pasta water to keep things loose.  Continue tossing until spinach wilts and pasta is al dente, about 4-5 minutes.  Grate on some cheese, drizzle a little olive oil over, and serve.