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. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Week 15 Share

Blueberries, 1 pt ($1.99)
Cucumber, 2 ($1.32)
Doughnut peaches, 13 oz ($2.42)
Eggplant, 1 lb 11 oz ($2.17)
Corn, 3 ears ($0.99)
Dill, 1 bunch ($1.49)
Bell peppers, 1 lb 2 oz ($1.67)
Pristine apples, 14 oz ($1.74)
Carrots, 1 bunch ($2.00)
Yellow squash, 14 oz ($2.61)
Radish, 1 bunch ($1.29)

Total Share Value = $19.69

First apples of the season for me! The pristine apples here are a very crisp variety with a sweet-tart flavor. The name come from the fact that they tend to have very smooth, almost pristine finish with light yellow to pinkish coloring. Supposedly these apples will keep for quite a while after being picked, though I doubt they will need last that long in our house. The doughnut peaches are fun to see as well. I've always avoided buying them because they typically cost half again as much as regular peaches but taste pretty much the same. I also have to say I'm glad to see only 2 yellow squash this week...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Peach and Blueberry Galette

A galette is a French term that describes a round, flat pastry that is typically rustic and somewhat free form in its design. For me, the I would translate to simply mean "easy pie". One crust, no pie plate and no fussy filling, just fresh fruit and a bit of sugar. My wife makes galettes more often than regular pies for this reason that its a lot less work and just as delicious. Galettes are great as desserts, but can just as easily be made from savory ingredients as well. Sauteed vegetables, meats, cheeses, egg or just about anything else you can think of could likely work as a galette filling, and I gurantee that this will not be the last time you see a galette on this blog. This time of year however, when the peaches are fresh and sweet, its a no-brainer to use them for the filling. All credit for this recipe and the work to make it goes to my wife. Thanks sweetie!

Share Contents Used

Pie Crust
2.5 cups flour
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup of ice water

6-7 peaches
2 tbs sugar
1/4 cup blueberries

To make the crust, place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and mix to combine.  Add the butter and process until the mixture forms into a coarse crumb texture. With the machine running, slowly pour 1/4 cup of water into the feed tube until the dough just holds together when you pinch it between your fingers. Add more water if necessary to achieve this. Try to minimize the processing time to no more than 30 seconds if possible. Dump the dough out onto your counter and divide in half. Form each pile into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before using. Once properly chilled, take one disk out of the fridge (freeze the other for another day) and place it on a floured work surface. Gently roll out the disk to a 12-14 inch circle. Don't worry about making it super even and neat, just as long as you have a solid base to place the filling and enough extra edge to fold over. Place the rolled out dough on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

To make the filling, peel the peaches then remove the pit and slice into thin segments. You should end up with at around 4 cups of peach slices. Place in a bowl and toss with the sugar, you can use more or less to your taste based on the sweetness of the peaches.

Leaving around a 2 inch edge, arrange the peach slices on the crust, overlapping them in a circular pattern until the it is filled to the middle. Alternately, if this look isn't important to you, just dump the slices in the middle and spread them out evenly, leaving 2 inches of dough around the edge. Fold the edge up and over the filling, working your way around and folding the crust over itself until it looks something like you see above. Keep in mind that this is suppose to be a rough, rustic look so don't make yourself crazy trying to make it even. Just be sure that the entire edge is covered to prevent leaks during baking. Finally, scatter the blueberries over top of the filling. Bake in a 425 degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Let cool completely before serving.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bread & Butter Pickles

My last attempt at pickling was a reasonable success; great flavor, but less than desirable texture. A bit of post pickling research revealed that the method I used (lacto-fermentation) will typically result in a softer texture. I prefer my pickles to have more crunch to them, and the sweeter "bread and butter" variety are a favorite of mine, so that's what I'm trying to make this time. The brine used here is very different from my previous batch, which was just salt and water. This brine is based on vinegar and includes sugar as well as a variety of spices. One other big difference is that the salt water brine is poured over the cucumbers at room temperature, while this vinegar brine is poured while still hot. Lastly, this recipe goes straight in the refrigerator for a week, while the salt water method sat on the counter for just 2-3 days to complete the pickling process. The recipe I used below is a slightly altered version of this one from Alton Brown.

Share Contents Used

1/2 of a sweet onion, thinly sliced
2-3 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 cup water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon pickling spice

Pickling spice is a blend of spices that add a lot of subtle flavors and aromas to your brine. The spices in the blend are whole and the type and ratio of spices can vary with the different blends that are available. I went with McCormick Pickling Spice that contains cinnamon, allspice, mustard seed, coriander, bay leaf, ginger, chilies, cloves, pepper, mace and cardamon (whew!). I'm sure that serious picklers make their own blends, but store bought is fine for me!

Combine onion and cucumber slices into clean mason jars (I needed two 24oz jars to fit everything). You want the jars full, but not packed too tightly. In a small saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices and then bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes to allow time for the spices to infuse into the liquid. Carefully pour the hot pickling liquid into your jars with the cucumbers and onion slices, completely filling the jar. I always make a mess when trying to pour slowly out of a pan, so I first transferred the hot liquid to a quart sized measuring cup so the spout would make control of the pour easier. Allow the liquid to cool to room temperature before closing the tops of the jars. Refrigerate the pickles for a week before trying. They should keep for about 2 months in the refrigerator.

The brine smelled fantastic as I poured it in the jars, and I have a good feeling that these bread and butter pickles are going to be really good. Check back in a week or so and I will update with the results.