Monday, October 7, 2013

Baba Ganoush

I'm a bit late in sharing this recipe with you all.  I had made this several weeks ago when eggplants were still coming in my CSA share, but finishing up the post somehow fell through the cracks. Better late than never I suppose!

Hummus has always been my go to homemade dip, but now that it is pretty much as ubiquitous as salsa, I do tire of it after a while. While baba ganoush is a bit more complex to make (as complex as roasting an eggplant can be...) it makes for a nice change. The ingredients are pretty much the same as hummus, but the eggplant gives this dip a lighter texture and flavor than you get with chickpeas. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Apple and Pear Pie with Cinnamon Crumble Topping

Have I mentioned that I like pie? No, that's not quite accurate...I LOVE pie!! By far my favorite desert, and of all the great pies out there, apple is top of the list for me. What can I say, I'm all about the classics! So you can imagine that when the local apples started to arrive that I was immediately asking my wife to bake me one. Then the other day I get home from work and the house smelled like heaven! Butter, cinnamon and apple scents floated through the air to my nose the moment walked in the door. What a fantastic (and absolutely delicious) surprise to come home to! 

In addition to the apples, we had some Asian pears laying around from a family trip to a pick your own orchard a little while back, so she combined them with the apples to add another nice flavor to the mix. Additionally, the pears remained crisper after baking, giving a nice bit of crunch to the final pie that complimented the soft apples well.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Week 22 Share

Sugar Pumpkin
Bok Choy
Green Beans
Fresh Apple Cider

As the season changes into fall, my thoughts on what to cook are drifting to warmer and heartier meals. This week's share certainly will help that along. Leeks and potatoes? Sounds like soup to me! Fresh apples means its pie time, and the sugar pumpkin, well I suppose that could be made in to a pie as well, but I feel like there could be something more interesting to do with that one...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Black Bean, Corn and Spinach Enchiladas

This is one of those recipes, that now having made it for the first time, I can't believe that I've never done is before. Enchiladas were always something for the local Mexican restaurant to handle and it never really occurred to me that it would be such a simple thing to make them as home. Of course, any recipe can be made complicated, and I've sure there are ways of making enchiladas that would require a dozen more ingredients and half a day of work, but having tasted these I see no reason to do much more than what I've got here. 

The only thing I will probably try net time is to add some shredded chicken or beef to see what these are like as a non-vegetarian version. I suppose the one thing I did do here to make things a bit more complex was making the sauce from scratch (could have just bought a can of it at the store) but in truth it was not that much more work and I always prefer to serve a homemade sauce over store bought.

As for the filling, I had spinach to use so I googled "spinach enchiladas" and ended up on the recipe linked below. The beans give a nice meatiness to the dish and combine very well with the spinach. The addition of corn (I used some of the kernels I had frozen from fresh ears several weeks back) adds a bit of sweetness and crunch. 

I do think the ingredient that really brought it all together was the cheese. Choose that well and you will be well rewarded. I went for a blend of cheddar, pepper jack and mozzarella. Top these off with a spoonful of salsa, or better yet do what we did and use the salsa verde I made a few days ago. Cook a big batch, these make great leftovers!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Salsa Verde

I had promised myself that I'd try to do something interesting with the tomatillos, but after another busy week that included a three day business trip to Minnesota, I needed to get these used before they went bad, so I phoned it in with possibly the most common tomatillo recipe out there; salsa verde.

Salsa verde is made using a different technique than other salsas. Instead of dicing up the vegetables and mixing them together raw, all the ingredients are boiled together and then blended to make what is basically a chunky sauce. One of the reasons why its done this way is that tomatillos have a lot of pectin in them which is released by the boiling. Then when the mixture cools the pectin acts as a thickener, giving you salsa instead of tomatillo soup.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pickled Vegetable Slaw

Fall weather is descending fast around here marking the start of my favorite part of the year. This stretch from mid-September through to the end of the year brings so much of what I love about food and cooking. The big holiday feasts are always the main events of the season, but there are so many smaller events and activities before those that keep me plenty busy. Today’s activity comes from the desire to hold onto the bright, beautiful flavors of summer before they disappear until next year. Already, my freezer is stocked with blanched vegetables (beans, corn, etc.) that take well to freezing, but for those that are best when raw it’s time to break out the pickling jars again.

I read about this technique of pickling mixed vegetable slaw a few months back on Smitten Kitchen, and it jumped to the front of my mind when I did a clean out of the fridge to find a big bell pepper, a lone carrot and a whole bunch of radishes from past CSA shares that have been languishing. To that I added a couple small bell peppers that my backyard plants managed to produce despite looking pretty worn out, as well as a red onion to complete the medley of vegetables for this slaw.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Week 20 Share

Beans (organic)
Arugula (organic)
Swiss Chard (organic)

Okay! Back to it with week 20, and boy am I glad my schedule is back to normal because I would have been sad to miss this share. All the leafy greens are back! We got so used to having 1 or 2 nice fresh greens every week back in the spring and have missed them during the summer months. Not that I'm complaining about the veggies we were getting, but still, its nice to get a break from corn and bell peppers! I'm also excited to see the tomatillos in the share. I've only cooked with them twice before (including this one a few weeks ago) and I look forward to another opportunity to use them. Lastly, I have to note the potatoes. I have never had a potato that was dug out the ground just days ago (I mean, how old do you think potatoes from the grocery store are?) and I am very curious to see if there is any difference in flavor.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

How to Drink Your Watermelon

The last week has been one of the busiest that I've had in a long time. Work was crazy busy, requiring longer hours than usual, so long in fact that I wasn't able to pick up my CSA share for the week. Luckily the farm offers a great option for when you can't pick up, where they will donate your share to the local food bank, so I was more than happy to let my share for the week go to those who need it more. My long days barely left time to cook, much less document anything in to a blog entry!

The other thing that's kept me busy was that we are moving my daughter to a larger bedroom and I gave myself the project of building some shelves in the closet, taking up most of the free time I did find. We're moving my daughter because her current room needs to be turned back into a nursery for our second child who is due in just about a month! My wife's pregnancy has not been full of many cravings, with the one exception being watermelon. We've been going though nearly a whole watermelon every week for the last couple months!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

So way back when I picked up my first share at the farm, there was a fresh mint plant included. I planted it in the herb garden, and while a few leaved were plucked here and there for various recipes, it has pretty much been left to its own devices since then. Much like what happens when a small child is left unattended for too long, it started to cause trouble. I went outside a few days ago to pick some herbs and could barely find the plants I needed as the mint had grown so much that its neighbors were almost completely covered! In retrospect, I do remember reading somewhere that mint can be somewhat aggressive in its growth, but I hadn't given it much thought at the time, and besides, since when is too much of an herb a bad thing? Well, live and learn! After some serious pruning, I had quite a bit of mint to use, and I knew there was only one way...

Before you get further in to this recipe, let me make sure its understood that this ice cream made with fresh mint is NOTHING like what you would typically buy in the grocery store; it is so so so much better that you may never be able to go back to store bought. When the mint is picked the same day you make the ice cream, the resulting mint flavor is wonderfully fresh and is subtle enough that you won't tire of it, but at the same time you never have a doubt that it's there. Imagine the smell when you bruise a fresh mint leaf; that is the taste you get. The other great thing about using really fresh leaves is that they will color the ice cream ever so slightly green, a effect that is almost always achieved with food coloring in store bought. Maybe its a good thing that my mint plant is growing so fast, because I'm sure that I'll be wanting to make this ice cream again as soon as this batch has been eaten!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Week 18 Share

Green Beans
Lettuce (organic)
Bell Peppers

I think I'm finally starting to see the farm's growing cycles at work in how the contents of the shares have changed over the last few months. Early on, greens and radishes were a constant, but then disappeared, presumably because there weren't any more to pick. Now that there have been a couple months of growing time, they are back! Two weeks ago was kale and radish, and now arugula with some nice looking light pink radishes. Of course, now I have a ton of radishes to use. The watermelon was a nice surprise this week, I think I'm going to have to come up with something fun to make with it, perhaps a drink. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Peach Pecan Upside Down Cake

This past Labor Day weekend ended up being a stay at home event for me and the family. We had some hopes of a weekend getaway, but never got our act together on planning. Regardless, the weather was pretty crummy and I was recovering from a head cold so it was probably for the best that we didn't stray from the house much. Despite these downers, my wife saw this as an opportunity to tackle a list of treats she had been looking for time to bake, and when she told me that a peach upside down cake was part of the plan, I knew that I'd be writing about it here. 

One of the great things about upside down cakes are that they make is so easy to create a beautiful looking cake without having to mess around with icing. Of course, you won't find upside down cakes highlighting a wedding, but they certainly make for a great ending to a family dinner. Personally, I'd take a slice of this over a fancy layer cake any day!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Corn and Lobster Chowder

With summer coming to a close and the abundant sweet corn with it, I wanted to make up for the corn ice cream debacle and share something with you all that I would actually make again. This time I thought I should stick with something a bit more mainstream as far as corn recipes go. Chowder came to mind right away because, like the corn, seafood chowders are something that I associate with summer. I know that hot, creamy soups are generally not high on the menus during the summer, but for me the association has more to do with summer beach trips. The taste of chowder brings memories of the sounds of the surf and smell of the salt in the air. The result of this recipe was truly excellent, and the only thing that would have made it better would be cooking it at a beach house while watching the waves. Ah well...there's always next summer.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rice and Squid Stuffed Peppers

If you are into food blogs, I imagine that you have at some point spent time on Smitten Kitchen. It's one of more well known out there, and a recent post there for rice stuffed tomatoes caught my attention. However, with an abundance of bell peppers coming in over the last few weeks, as well as the pepper plants in my garden starting to produce (yes, despite the fact that I'm getting a half-bushel of vegetables every week from the farm that I can barely keep up with, it seemed like a good idea to ALSO plant a vegetable garden) I realized I needed to get working on this pepper backlog and now was the perfect time to go for a meal of stuffed peppers. 

I still wanted to use a tomato/rice mixture based on the Smitten Kitchen recipe as the stuffing, but since the plan was to have this as a stand alone meal, I was worried that it would not be filling enough as is. Adding some seafood to the rice seemed like a good answer and I picked squid because it pairs so well with tomato, and anyway, seafood risottos are a favorite at my house.

Given a choice I would have picked a sweeter (red, orange) bell pepper for this dish, but green was what I had to work with. In the end though, the slightly bitter taste of the green bell pepper paired pretty well with the sweetness from the tomato used to cook the rice and if I make this again in the future, I may purposely seek out green peppers. Its always fun when the necessity of using an ingredient on hand results in a something tasty that you never would have discovered otherwise!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Week 17 Share

Doughnut Peaches
Onions (red and yellow)
Lettuce (organic)
Sweet Corn
Green Bell Peppers
Hot Peppers

Summer's bounty rolls on, and while the variety of vegetables in the share has stayed pretty much the same for the last few weeks, the sheer versatility of all these items keep this from being any problem. Remember in the first weeks when there was 2 or 3 heads of lettuce every week? That was a pain to use up for sure. 

A couple ideas come to mind right away looking at this list; a stuffed pepper of some sort for the bell peppers and chowder for the corn as its been a while since I've made a soup. I think I'll need to coax my wife to work on another peach dessert as well. Can't have too many of those!

Wait!! Where's the share value?? Well, I've decided to retire that particular element of these weekly share posts. The fact of the matter is that having passed the midpoint of CSA season, the value of this program is clear. For the last 16 weeks the value has totaled $389 whereas I invested $360. To be honest, weighing and pricing each share was a lot of work, so I'm glad to be done with me more time to cook!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Spicy Pork with Peach Sauce and Braised Cabbage

The farm has been quite generous with peaches over the last few weeks, with recent shares containing 8 peaches every time. This has presented a bit of a challenge in that the peaches are not yet ripe when I get them, and inevitably they will all ripen at the same time resulting in a bit of a scramble for us to get them all used before they start going bad. Not that I'm really complaining about having to eat lots of nice ripe peaches, but it got me thinking that it would be good to have a few ways to use unripe peaches as well.

Since the unripe peach are quite firm, they don't fall apart as easily during cooking and I wanted to take full advantage of this by using them in two of the three components in this dish. The main protein, pork is often paired with fruit, apples probably being the most common. I've never tried pork with peach, but there are plenty of pork/peach recipes on the web, so it appears I've been missing out.

After sifting through a few recipes, I decided to go for a sweet/spicy combination by using a spicy rub on the pork and then serving it with a sweet peach sauce. Since the unripe peaches are rather tart, I'll add some sugar to the sauce to give it a bit of sweetness, but not too much. The second way I used the peaches was to combine them with red cabbage (left from a couple shares ago) and onion and then braise the whole lot with vinegar until it reaches its happy place. Pork, peach sauce, braised cabbage...this is going to be good!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

So I had touched on this, my favorite way of making tomato sauce about a month ago, but it was just one component of a larger recipe and now that fresh tomatoes are in hand, I thought it was time to give this simple yet delicious recipe its own spotlight. Once fresh summer tomatoes are in abundance, this sauce will make weekly appearances at our table. 

Plum tomatoes are ideal for this recipe with their strong flavor that is just a bit on the sweet side, but just about any fresh tomato will work. I've used everything from beefsteak to cherry with good results, and each type of tomato will bring its own unique flavor to the sauce. Otherwise I try to keep ingredients to a minimum. Onion, basil and garlic are always in there because after all, they are tomato sauce's best friends. Red pepper flakes will add a nice bit of spice to the mix, but in the end you want the tomato to shine through so I would not stray too far from the ingredient ratios I have here if you decide to experiment.

Share Contents Used

2 tbs olive oil
2 lb fresh tomatoes
1/4 cup onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)

1 tbs fresh basil, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb spaghetti

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Take the tomatoes and cut a shallow cross through the skin on the bottom, then place in the boiling water for 1 minute. Remove from the water and immediately place in a bowl of ice water to cool for 2-3 minutes. Remove the tomato from the cold water, peel off and discard the skin by grabbing the edges of the cross you cut on the bottom. Coarsely chop the peeled tomatoes, discarding the bit of core where the stem used to be. Return the pot of water to a boil then add the spaghetti and cook per package directions until its al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat then add the onion and cook until it starts to get soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Add the chopped tomato to the pan  and cook, stirring occasionally until the tomato has started to break down and form a sauce, about 10 minutes. Stir in the basil then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add the cooked spaghetti to the pan with the sauce and toss to coat. Serve immediately with lots of grated Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Week 16 Share

Onions, 2 lb ($1.98)
Peaches, 2 lb 10 oz ($3.38)
Green beans, 12 oz ($2.24)
Mint, 1 bunch ($1.99)
White eggplant, 1 lb ($2.49)
Cantaloupe, 2 lb ($2.99)
Radish, 1 bunch ($1.50)
Scallion, 1 bunch ($0.99)
Plum tomato, 1 lb 10 oz ($4.42)
Cilantro, 2 bunches ($2.98)
Corn, 8 ears ($4.80)
Kale, 1 bunch ($1.49)

Total share value = $31.25

Getting a little melon this week was a nice surprise. I had assumed that once the blueberries stopped that there would be a couple weeks of peaches being the only fruit until the apples came in. I was also happy to see the tomatoes, which have been conspicuously absent in the shares this whole summer. I'm thinking that fresh tomato sauce will be on the menu this week, as well as another ice cream. Speaking of which, I'll need to do something else with the corn to make up for the corn ice cream debacle...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Eggplant Caponata

What a day today! We've had veggies from the CSA slowly building up over the last couple weeks and I decided to put some serious effort to use them up before more comes in this week. First, the remaining cucumbers went into another batch of bread and butter pickles (the first batch of which turned out fantastically by the way). My next target was 3 pounds of yellow squash that I used to make a triple batch of fritters. I used the same recipe as before, but this time mixed in chopped Swiss chard that I sauteed with a clove of garlic and the last of the hot peppers. By tripling the recipe, I ended up with 12 big fritters, most of those will be frozen for a future meal. After all that work, there was still eggplant and several bell peppers left to use, and from that I decided to make caponata.

Caponata is a Sicilian dish centered around eggplant that is cooked until very soft with a variety of other vegetables in a sweet, vinegary sauce. In addition to the eggplant, a traditional caponata should have celery and capers in the mix, but after that there are many other things you could add depending on your taste. Bell pepper was already in for me, and to that I added onion, tomato, garlic and olives. This is a fairly simple dish to make and it gets better with age, which is good because the eggplant I had was rather large, and when all was complete I had close to 2 quarts of caponata. We typically eat this as a snack on chips or slices of baguette, though it can be used as a side dish and will go quite well with seafood.

Share Contents Used
Bell Pepper

6 cups eggplant, cubed
1 tbs kosher salt
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green olives, chopped
1-1/2 cups canned crushed tomato
3 tbs capers, rinsed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbs sugar
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped.

Toss the cubed eggplant with 1 tbs salt and then place in a colander over a bowl and let sit for 15 minutes so the salt can draw some of the water out of the eggplant. When the time is up, give the eggplant a quick rinse with fresh water and allow to drain completely. Spread the eggplant on a sheet pan and season with pepper and drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat then roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat one tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet, then add the onion, bell pepper and celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook for another minute. Add the eggplant to the pan and cook, stirring for another 5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the eggplant starts to fall apart.

Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan along with the capers, olives, sugar and vinegar. Bring to a simmer then turn the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 20 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables are very tender and the mixture is quite thick and fragrant. Stir in the basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sausage with Peppers and Onions in Marsala Sauce

Bell peppers from the CSA seem to have joined the squash in an attempt to overtake my refrigerator these past few weeks, and I don't know about you, but tossing a few slices on my salads is definitely not keeping them in check. To make some headway, I'm enlisting the classic combination of sausage with peppers and onions. Most of my experience with this meal has been at street fairs and the like, usually served out of the side of a truck or trailer that has been brightly painted with the colors of the Italian flag, and 9 times out of 10 the sandwich they sell you is pretty terrible. Overcooked, fatty sausage in a tasteless white bread bun with unseasoned, limp, greasy peppers and onions on top. To add insult to injury, the darn thing costs you eight bucks! 

My version of this dish is a far cry from carnival food. I like to use Italian turkey sausage because it is generally less greasy, though this recipe works just as well with regular pork sausages if that is your preference. To give the whole thing more flavor, the peppers and onions are cooked in a Marsala wine sauce along with tomatoes, garlic and a bunch of fresh herbs. I also throw in a jalapeno pepper to give a little heat (crushed red pepper works as well) and then let the whole thing simmer away with the sausages until it reaches its happy place. To serve this, you can go for the classic and put it on a roll (note that you can choose to leave the sausages whole to make portioning easier here) or for a less messy option, you can do what we did and serve on a plate with the bread on the side. This is also really good over rice or even pasta.

This recipe is loosely based on the one here from the Food Network.

Share Contents Used
Bell Peppers
Hot pepper

2 tbs olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage
3 bell peppers, sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced
Salt and Pepper
1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (remove the seeds if you don't want too much heat)
2 tbs tomato paste
1 cup dry Marsala wine
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes (or use an equivalent amount of fresh chopped tomato if you have them)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat then add the sausages and cook until nicely browned, it is not necessary to cook them all the way through. Remove the sausages from the pan and drain off any remaining oil, leaving just a thin coating. Add the peppers and onions, season with salt and pepper and cook until they have started to brown. Add the oregano, basil, jalapeno and garlic and cook another minute or two. Next, add the tomato paste, Marsala wine and tomatoes then stir to combine. 

Bring the pan to a simmer over low heat. Cut the sausages into bite sized pieces and add back to the pan, stirring to incorporate. Cook uncovered over low heat until the sauce has thickened, around 10 minutes. Season to taste before serving.