Archive for September, 2009
Sunday, September 27th, 2009
This post and the herbs above, have been hanging around my computer and my pantry, awaiting blog launch for quite some time now. All I can say is life happens, blog posts happen later. Although I’m no expert when it comes to herbs and spices, I have a lovely cook’s reference manual and a blogger friend, who happens to be a wonderful chef, to help me out. I love fresh herbs and the unique scents, tastes and colors they impart. Fresh is best, but there’s nothing wrong with dried herbs, especially if you have a bountiful harvest and can’t use them all. Plus, it’s fun to dry them yourself.
Herbs and spices have been used for medicinal purposes throughout history. I often mention specific health-promoting properties when describing an herb or spice in a recipe. Aside from their appetizing flavors and aromas, many are filled with various vitamins and minerals.
And wasn’t it Cleopatra who used herbs to seduce men? Or was it incense she used? Milk baths? Probably all of the above. Or, maybe it was this lounging-around-topless look. Whatever it was, she went down in history as being quite the shrewd temptress.
I got side-tracked, which is quite common. Back to drying herbs.
drying rosemary, marjoram and dill
what you do
1. Snip herbs, leaving them with long stems. Tie the herbs together and hang them in a dry, dark and well-ventilated area. Hanging them from cabinets in the kitchen is a nice look, but you do want to keep them dry and clean. I moved these from my pantry to a well-lit area to take the photo. You can also put a paper lunch sack around them (poke a few air holes in the sack). That way they’re in the dark and protected from dust.
2. Leave for 2 to 4 weeks, checking occasionally to see if they are adequately dry. Some take longer than others. If they crumble and fall apart when you rub them between your fingers, they’re ready to store.
3. Store them in clean glass jars. I like to keep them intact in relatively long pieces until I want to use them, then I take a piece out and remove the dried leaves. Label, date them and store them away from heat and light. They last six months to a year.
Go forth and dry your herbs. Doing it Cleopatra style is an option.
Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
It was 32 degrees here last night, cold all day and light snow is expected tonight. It’s been snowing heavily in the mountains (yeah!). Monday’s CSA delivery had no chance of becoming anything other than farm-fresh soup. Other than garlic, broth, olive oil and one small sweet potato, I used what was in my delivery box and made a big batch of soup. It could have easily been a salad had I not cooked the ingredients.
I forgot to put the spinach in the before photo (my share box was absolutely overflowing again). Imagine a sweet potato where that gorgeous egg plant is and imagine it surrounded by rich, vibrant spinach leaves. As I was busy chopping away, I decided a sweet potato played into this soup better than the eggplant, so I switched those out at the last minute. I’ll figure out something with the egg plant later this week. Eggplant parmesan with a homemade tomato sauce?
Here’s the before picture.
Here’s the after picture.
Salad in the form of warm, soothing soup
What you need (anything you want, but I used the following)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 bay leaves
2 – 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks (about 3/4 inch cubes)
6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 cup water
3 carrots, washed and cut into chunks (don’t you love those chubby carrots)
3 celery stalks, washed and chopped into 1/4 – 1/2 inch pieces, leaves and all
2 cups washed, trimmed and sliced green beans (1 – 2 inch pieces)
2 cups washed and chopped zucchini (1 inch pieces)
corn kernels from 1 ear of corn (uncooked, removed from the cob)
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 – 2 cups spinach, washed and chopped into large pieces
herbs such as thyme, rosemary and basil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
what you do
• Heat the olive oil over low heat in a large stock pot. Add onion and bay leaves and stir frequently for 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Add sweet potato, stir occasionally and cook 5 more minutes. Pour 1 cup of the broth over the vegetables, increase heat slightly and simmer for 5 minutes.
• Add the next 5 cups of broth and the 1 cup of water and bring to a light boil or simmer. Add the carrots, celery and green beans and cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Add the zucchini and corn and simmer another 5 minutes.
• Add the diced tomatoes and the herbs and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes. Add the spinach, cook another 2 to 3 minutes, season with salt and pepper, remove the bay leaves and serve. Top with a touch of shredded cheese if you’d like (Parmesan or Monterey Jack is good).
These cooking times are flexible, but I’ve found this “layering” method works well with so many different types of vegetables. Put the veggies that take the most time to cook in the pot first, ending with things like herbs, tomatoes and greens that take much less time. I like my soups with crunchy vegetables and vibrant colors and if you over-cook the soup, you lose both characteristics.
Go forth and make salad into soup on cold days!
Thursday, September 17th, 2009
Those of you following this blog know I occasionally assign quirky personalities or off-beat characteristics to my vegetables. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not because I have too much time on my hands.
I just love food, especially farm-fresh fruits and vegetables. That, and the fact that I have an overly-active imagination.
Between my Grant Farms CSA veggie share and my neighbor who’s out of town and asked me to keep an eye on his tomatoes (invasion of the tomato snatcher), I have a boat-load of these wonderful gems.
Tomatoes are auxiliary verbs. Don’t get me wrong, I love them on their own, but more than any other vegetable (at least at this moment when I have dozens of them rolling around on my counter), they play a “helper” role. An auxiliary verb helps to form the tense and voice of the main verb. Stick with me here. They combine with the main verb (or ingredients) to add texture and meaning to the sentence (or recipe).
See? Tomatoes are auxiliary verbs, they “help” express the richness of the dish. The depth of the sauce. The fullness of color. They bring out the best in basil, tarragon, parsley and oregano.
Those of you who are still reading, thank you for indulging me.
Onward. Here are a few things I’ve been doing with my invasion of tomatoes.
Thawed tomatoes make for great additions to soups, stews and sauces (think auxiliary verb). They can be frozen in a variety of ways, but here’s how I do it. Wash, dry, core and cut the tomatoes into wedges. Place them on a cookie sheet, making sure they aren’t touching each other and stick the cookie sheet in the freezer. Once frozen, place them in several individual freezer bags or containers, date them and put them back in the freezer for later.
All-purpose blended tomato sauce (which I froze in separate containers)
Once again, this is a “launching pad” recipe which was created according to what I received in my CSA share on Monday. Adjust accordingly and be creative.
what you need (be creative)
8 tomatoes, washed, cored and quartered (cut off funky spots)
6 cloves garlic, chopped in chunks
2 carrots, washed and cut in chunks
1 cup chopped squash (skins included)
1/2 onion, chopped in chunks
basil, parsley and oregano
fresh ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
* chop the veggies enough so they work in the blender
All of these ingredients, except the garlic and oregano were in my CSA box. I’m simply trying to use what I can and save the rest for later. This is a “save the rest” recipe. The basil and parsley were fresh from the farm, the oregano was dried.
what you do
Blend the tomatoes in a food processor or blender until half-way pureed. Not totally pulverized, keep some chunky stuff in there. Pour most of it into a large pot. Retain some of the tomato sauce in the blender so the rest of the ingredients have some liquid to blend with. Add the other ingredients slowly and blend well. Pour this into the pot and cook on low for an hour or so to thicken it and meld the flavors together. Season with fresh ground pepper and sea salt. Let cool, pour into individual freezer containers, write the date and what it is on the container and freeze it for later. You can also freeze some of this in small ziplock freezer bags for adding to stews and soups. A cup or so of this sauce added to a soup or stew made with vegetable, chicken or beef stock is absolutely wonderful.
For a few other veggie personality profiles (and some recipes, check below)
The deadly serious beet
Punk rock kohlrabi
Rhubarb, the little tart
There you go – auxiliary verb tomatoes!
Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
Here is this week’s Grant Farm’s CSA share. This is my abundant, small veggie share, plus my fruit share and a dozen pastured chicken eggs. I was at a loss for words, which is rare for me.
Luckily (or unfortunately for you), those occasional synapse lags never last long. Now it’s time to get to work figuring out what to do with all this produce, plus the lingering stuff from last week.
But first, I’m going to repeat something I wrote over a year ago. Josh, our witty CSA coordinator at Grant Farms, mentioned in his weekly newsletter how important fresh, wholesome, organic food is to our health. As a nutritionist, helping people make lasting and healthy lifestyle changes revolves around food. As an advocate for the return of old-fashioned food (real food), I’m on a mission to support the farmers who grow that food. Josh was right when he said that “many of our health issues are rooted in the food we eat and how it is grown or raised.”
Skip the overblown health claims for expensive supplements, don’t bother with the next dietary fad, avoid fast food and processed junk foods – eat the real thing – wholesome, traditional, real food.
Food Pyramid Remix (my take – late fall, 2008)
The government has made an effort to let us know what we should be eating on a daily basis by creating the Food Pyramid. Rather ironic, wouldn’t you say? Here we are at the top of the food chain and we’re the only animals in need of eating instructions.
I’m not picking sides, but in light of some of the decisions made by our elected officials, maybe we should educate ourselves and figure out what we should eat on our own.
Okay, having said that, I’m going to throw my two cent’s worth into the mix. More irony, you say? I suppose so, but at this point, there’s an overload of complex and confusing information from too many sources. It’s time to slow down and rethink things. We all have to eat, why is it so confusing to choose a healthy diet? Why are we so obsessed with food and yet so unhealthy as a culture? Part of the problem is too many choices in a world of food politics and an industry worth billions of dollars a year — in the United States alone. That can make eating complicated and even stressful.
It doesn’t have to be.
Here are a few of my tips for healthy eating:
1. Eat whole, fresh food (preferably organic).
2. Make whole plant sources, especially vegetables, legumes, and fruit your foundation. You can even eat veggies for breakfast — it’s okay, trust me. Choose whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and teff.
3. For the most part, choose foods you can hold in your hands and wash. Can you wash a box of Kraft mac and cheese or a package of ding dongs? You can wash a tomato, cabbage and you can rinse brown rice. See how easy that is?
4. Don’t eat food that never spoils. Remember my HFCS post? The pink snowballs and the chocolate hockey pucks? As I mentioned, I’ve had those on my closet shelf for over a year. If it doesn’t rot, it’s not food.
5. If animals, insects, and bacteria won’t eat it, maybe we shouldn’t. Food that has been sprayed with chemicals to repel critters is not a good choice for people either. Whoa, that doesn’t mean bugs are smarter than we are, does it? Yikes, maybe so.
6. You’ve all probably heard this one before — don’t eat foods from the middle of the grocery store. Stick to the periphery where the real food is located.
7. Make it yourself. Learn from your grandmother. Enjoy the cultural wisdom of food. My mother grew up in a very poor family in the south during the depression. I mean dirt-floor poor. They had few food choices, but somehow the family was fairly healthy. All they had was what they grew or traded someone else for – vegetables, beans, cornbread, dandelion greens, whatever fruit or nut tree was around, some oatmeal and an occasional pig, chicken, or fresh-caught game (birds, fish, rabbits). My grandmother also made them all take a dose of cod liver oil regularly. Hmmm? When you think about it, you’ve got some very healthy food choices there. They either grew or caught everything they ate. I know things are different now and you just don’t have time to go rabbit hunting on your lunch hour, but it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.
8. To sum it up: eat less, eat slower, use smaller plates, join a CSA, frequent farmer’s markets, choose fresh ingredients, eat more vegetables, choose humanely treated and pastured animal sources, skip the junk food, and savor your food. Part of healthy eating is enjoying what you eat, how you prepare it, the cultural variations, and sharing it with others.
Go forth and eat real food.
Saturday, September 12th, 2009
Yes, you read that right. Corn, as in corn on the cob, ice cream.
And no, I’m not a total nutbar (well, maybe). Although, I must admit, I’m not sure I’d make this again. It was over-the-top rich and creamy. As in creamed corn, which I’m not crazy about. It looked gorgeous though, don’t you agree? A lot like my beet ice cream. Pretty on the outside, peculiar on the inside.
corny ice cream
what you need (a sense of culinary adventure)
1 & 1/2 cups whole milk
1 & 1/2 cups half & half
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 large eggs
3 Large egg yolks
kernels from 2 large ears of corn *
* Remove and discard the husks. Boil the ears for about 10 minutes, remove from water and let cool. Remove the kernels and set aside in a small bowl. Save the corn cobs for later.
what you do (quit while you’re ahead, eat the corn with butter and sea salt and make plain homemade vanilla ice cream)
naah, be brave
Combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan. Break the de-corned corn cobs (I don’t know what to call them) in two and carefully drop them into the cream mixture. Bring ingredients to a slow boil, reduce heat and simmer lightly for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Once the 30 minutes is up, remove pan from heat and remove corn cobs.
Combine the eggs, egg yolks and maple syrup in a medium bowl and beat on low-medium speed for about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Scoop out 1 cup of the hot liquid from the milk/cream mixture. With mixer on low speed, add the cup of hot liquid to the egg mixture in a slow steady stream. When thoroughly combined, pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium low heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Transfer to a bowl, cover with a piece of plastic wrap placed directly on the custard, and chill completely.
Turn on ice cream maker, pour the chilled custard into the freezer bowl per manufacturer’s directions and let mix for 25 minutes until thickened. Add kernels and mix another 5 minutes. Eat or freeze for later.
I’m thinking a drizzle of caramel sauce might be nice on this – caramel corn ice cream. Literally.
Go forth and try new things (but maybe not this)!
P.S. I can’t decide if this is oddly wonderful or just plain weird and slightly unpleasant. I keep tasting it though. Hmmm?
Tuesday, September 8th, 2009
This frittata was made from ingredients I picked up last night from my Grant Farms delivery. I decided I wanted to make an Italian egg dish for dinner tonight and gave myself some rules. I could only use what was in my CSA box. No additions, no substitutions.
When I picked up my load of veggies, fruit and farm-fresh eggs, my imagination veered towards a frittata-ta-ta dinner. The name “across the farm” came from a bright and engaging woman whom I know from commenting on one of my favorite British food blogs. Anne called a vegetable soup an across the garden soup because it simply had whatever ingredients were available from the garden at that time. I LOVE that. So, I’m borrowing the name, tweaking it, and giving Anne full credit.
Other than a pat of butter, two cloves of garlic and a sprinkling of cheese, everything in this recipe appeared in my pick-up box last night. Thank you, Andy and gang. YUM!
across the farm frittatata-ta-ta
what you need (whatever is in season)
what I used
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups chopped squash
2 medium-sized little onions (cippolini onions)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped (drain the juice)
1 ear corn, boiled for 10 minutes, cooled and kernels removed from the cob
Italian herbs (I used dried)
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Sprinkling of Parmesan cheese
pat of butter or a tablespoon or so of olive oil
what you do
Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a heavy skillet (I use my grandmother’s old cast iron skillet), heat the butter or oil. Make sure you coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes, add the garlic, stir and cook another 2 or 3 minutes. Add the squash and continue cooking for about 5 more minutes. Now add the tomato, corn, herbs and seasonings; sauté and stir another few minutes until all ingredients are well mixed. Pour eggs over top, place on center rack in oven and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with a small amount of Parmesan cheese and return for another 5 minutes.
Serve with a plain mixed green salad and a glass of nice pinot noir. Yes, you can serve wine with eggs, just not at breakfast.
Go forth and enjoy across the farm goodness!
Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
These were so good that I’m just going to skip the prelude and get right to the point.
I went for a 4 mile power walk/hike early this morning and was starving when I got home. My 5 AM apple with almond butter lasted long enough to finish my hike, but that was it. Okay, so I’m not getting to the point, but I’ll be there soon.
This week’s Grant Farms CSA bounty was a bit overwhelming. Actually, seriously overwhelming, so now I’m refusing to go anywhere near a market. I can’t spend money on store-bought food when I have all these fresh, local veggies laying claim to every square inch of my refrigerator.
So, what’s for lunch (10 AM lunch)?
What you need
squash, chopped in small chunks (I used half of a large zucchini-type squash)
1 medium tomato, diced
4-6 large kale leaves, stems removed, leaves chopped into 2 inch chunks
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped in small chunks
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon red chile pepper flakes
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
corn taco shells
what you do
Preheat oven to 400 and place taco shells on a cookie sheet, set aside for now. It only takes a few minutes to heat the shells, so plan to put them in the oven when you’re almost finished making the taco fixings.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, squash and green pepper, stir-fry for 3 to 5 minutes until veggies are semi-tender. Add kale and continue stirring so it has a chance to get covered with the olive oil and cook down a bit (another 3 minutes or so). Place taco shells in the oven and set timer for 4 minutes. Next add the tomatoes, beans and crushed red pepper to the taco mixture; continue stirring until all ingredients are hot. Season with salt. Serve in heated taco shells, top with small amount of grated cheese (optional). Makes 4 to 6 tacos depending on how big the shells are and how packed you cram them.
This was a surprise hit. Gourmet Magazine, here I come. I might even serve them for dinner tonight.
Go forth and play with your food!
Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
Holy kohlrabi, what am I going to do with all this stuff? I’m being bombarded with vegetables and fruit. This was last night’s small share delivery. SMALL share, but in a Brobdingnagian way. And some of the veggies and the pears didn’t even make it into the photo frame. Oh, and I totally forgot to add my dozen farm-fresh eggs.
I set out at the beginning of CSA season to use every last lettuce leaf I receive from Grant Farms, but they aren’t making it easy. Repeat after me. “My crisper drawer is not a place where veggies go to die.”
Okay, I’m warning the rest of you. This week’s harvest is pretty darn overwhelming. But I’m here to help you with some tips on how to wash, spin, store, eat, eat, give away, freeze, eat, eat, and eat some more farm fresh food.
And don’t panic, you can’t gain weight eating veggies. Unless you pair them with donuts and soda pop. I could eat that whole table of food in two days by myself and not gain an ounce. Having said that, I’m making sweet corn ice cream today. So there are no guarantees if you mess with the originals.
Tips for storing veggies
For washing, spinning and storing lettuce, check this post of mine.
For tips from the experts on storing veggies to retain their flavor and aroma, check here.
For a great SeriousEats post on how to unclutter your fridge and store veggies, check here.
Ideas for using greens
Poached eggs on spinach and tomatoes
This was my breakfast this morning. Spinach, tomatoes and a poached egg on toasted Montina bread (made from Indian rice grass). Sauté 2 cups of chopped spinach and 1 diced tomato in a small amount of olive oil over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Poach an egg while sautéing spinach and tomatoes. Pile onto toasted bread, no butter needed. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. This can also serve for lunch or dinner.
Savory kale, Swiss chard, or spinach
1 large bunch of kale (or other greens)
1 – 2 small onions
1 -2 cloves garlic, finely minced (optional)
small amount of broth
splash of olive oil (1 -2 tablespoons)
1 – 2 tablespoons tomato paste
Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until lightly browned. Remove onion from pan and set aside for now. Add greens and a few tablespoons of broth to the skillet and stir gently. Turn the heat down, cover and steam until tender (anywhere from 3 to 8 minutes depending on how like your greens cooked). Remove greens to a colander to drain. Put onions back in the skillet; you may need to add a small amount of olive oil (if using, add garlic at this time), heat to a sizzle, cook garlic for 1 minute and add tomato paste. Stir until onions, garlic and tomato paste are well mixed and warm. Return greens to the pan; mix, heat and serve.
Stay tuned for sweet corn ice cream and how to freeze and use all those tomatoes!
Go forth and eat your veggies before they eat you!
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