Sunday, January 31, 2010

CSA Week 22

Mother Nature has been more kind to our friends at Orchard Pond Organics. This week's share offers more variety and volume than recent weeks. We're excited to receive some new items, too. (Thank you to Junior Chef #1 for washing the vegetables and taking the picture!)

  • kale, several varieties (My sister sent several kale pizza recipes. We'll try one!)
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • turnips (only the tops are visible here, having been removed by the Junior Chef)
  • collard greens
  • Where's Chuck? 

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Love me tender, Honey

We eat very little red meat. Having been vegetarian for a number of years, we explored ways of substituting soy, grains, and beans for beef. For the past ten years, we have resumed eating meat, but continue to enjoy a broader palate of options.

Our Christmas celebration involved both families. With a full house for almost an entire week, we had many different types of foods on-hand. My sister was responsible for the Christmas eve meal. This year featured an array of hors d'oeuvres, including small beef tenderloin sandwiches with horseradish sauce on homemade brioche. There were over a dozen dishes on offer, however, so she used only half the tenderloin. The remainder has set in our freezer...until now.

My goal was to prepare the tenderloin in a simple fashion. Often it is cut into fillet portions and wrapped in bacon. Without supplemental fat and careful cooking, it is easy for it to become dry and overdone. Leaving it whole gives you more latitude. I decided to pair this with roasted rutabagas and sweet potatoes.

The Method (Beef tenderloin with porcini mushroom and onion reduction)

  • 1 beef tenderloin (Best if this is room temperature. I used half, but this recipe is not portion dependent)
  • 1-2 large onions, sliced thickly
  • 1 packet dried porcini mushrooms (other varieties, dried or fresh, would be fine)
  • oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 C red wine
  1. Soak the mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes. Meanwhile...
  2. Preheat the oven to 350.
  3. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat the oil in an oven-ready pot or pan over very high heat. (I used a cast iron skillet.)
  5. Sear the outside of the tenderloin until nicely browned. (Depending upon the thickness and evenness of the cut, you will need to take care not to overcook the meat at this stage.)
  6. Spread the onions around the tenderloin.
  7. Place in the oven. 
  8. Cook until your desired "done-ness." (I used a digital thermometer - set at 140 degrees. This is medium-rare, but the ends will be medium or medium-well for those who prefer it cooked further.)
  9. Remove the beef from the pan.
  10. Place the pan over high heat on the stovetop.
  11. Deglaze the pan with the red wine.
  12. Add the mushrooms and 1 C of the soaking water to the onions.
  13. Simmer until the sauce has reduced by 2/3. 
The Method (Honeyed Rutabagas and Sweet Potatoes)
I have wanted to try this recipe since I saw it in the Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash. It requires  very little effort, but some vigilance at the oven.
  • Several rutabagas, peeling
  • Several sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 3 TBs butter
  • 1/4 C honey
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Slice the rutabagas and sweet potatoes into pieces of equal thickness.
  3. Brush each slice with melted butter. Place on a cookie sheet.
  4. Combine remaining butter with the honey.
  5. Bake slices for 15 minutes.
  6. Flip the slices and brush with the butter-honey mixture.
  7. Bake 15 minutes.
  8. Flip and brush.
  9. Bake 15 minutes.
  10. Repeat once more if you wish.
The Results
This was so delicious. The beef was moist and flavorful - the sauce was a perfect accompaniment. And the honeyed rutabagas and sweet potatoes were pure bliss, little bites of caramelized heaven. We served steamed OPO broccoli and broccoli leaves alongside.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Traditional Malawian Meal

I have previously acknowledged that my time living overseas, in one of the poorest and most disadvantaged nations, has influenced the way I think about food. Admittedly, these many years later, I no longer give this as much thought as I once did. However, I was asked to give a lecture on global issues for a colleague's class this week. I draw upon those experiences to illustrate the stark differences in how Americans live from most other people in the world. One significant difference is in diet.

Malawians, like people in most cultures, have a staple, starchy food: nsima. Nsima is simply boiled corn flour. There are two main styles based on the type of flour used. Nsima made with highly hand-processed flour, called ufa woyera, is bright white and contains almost no nutrients. Ufa ngaiwa is less processed and retains its food value, but results in nsima that is more roughly textured and brownish/yellowish in color. These characteristics make it less desirable for many Malawians.

The typical Malawian diet is comprised of nsima (or a thinner, porridge made from the same flour) and ndiwo. "Ndi" functions as "and" in Chichewa, the main language in Malawi. So, ndiwo could be thought to mean the food you have in addition to nsima. We might refer to it as "relish." Ndiwo can be made of many things: meat, vegetables, eggs, etc. Often it is boiled leaves or beans.

Here is a set of traditional, simple dishes that would appear across separate meals rather than in one sitting like we've done.

The Method (Nsima)

  • 1 C corn meal (this is a fine substitute, although your end result will be bright yellow or white, if you can find white meal)
  • 2-3 C water, lukewarm
  1. Use a non-stick pot and good wooden spoon
  2. Stir a small amount of the corn meal into the lukewarm water. Avoid lumps!
  3. Bring water to a boil and slowly add the remaining corn meal. Stir constantly.
  4. Continue stirring as the mixture thickens. 
  5. After 4-5 minutes, it will suddenly become very thick.
  6. Stop cooking when your spoon can stand upright in the nsima without falling.
  7. Cover and allow to cool slightly. (You're going to eat this with your bare fingers.)
The Method (Ndiwo: Greens)
Malawians eat many different types of leaves - some that are familiar to us here in the U.S. You can use any greens that you enjoy.
  • large bunch of greens, chopped (I used collards)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 C roasted, unsalted peanuts (ground; I used my coffee grinder)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • oil
  • Salt
  1. Saute the onions in the oil over medium-high heat until they soften.
  2. Add the diced tomato and ground peanuts. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the greens.
  4. Cook the greens until they are soft (15-20 minutes). You'll have to add some water, but you want the greens to remain fairly dry and sticky, not soupy.
  5. Season with salt.
The Method (Ndiwo: Beans)
Beans are also a staple food and a primary protein source. There are many varieties, too. Here I made use of canned kidney beans, just to keep things simple.

  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • oil (is this ingredient list familiar - the ubiquitous four items in Malawian cooking: oil, salt, tomato, and onion)
  • salt
  1. Saute onion in the oil over medium-high heat until they soften.
  2. Add the diced tomato and salt. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the beans. 
  4. Cook until heated through.
The Results
This is an easy-to-prepare meal - and fairly healthy, too. We added pickled and scrambled eggs to the plate. 

You eat using one hand. Usually, your right. Pinch off a piece of nsima (hopefully, you haven't let it get cold). Then dimple it with your thumb to create a pocket to hold some of the ndiwo. Scoop it into your mouth. 

I ate many, many meals similar to this. But I'm thankful to have other options now. I hope you'll give it a try.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010


Wow. What a crazy week. There was time to cook, but no time to blog. I have a list of meals to present. Let's start with breakfast several days ago.

I've had varied success with baked eggs in the past. Despite my general interest in complicated recipes, I never can bring myself to place the ramekins or other baking dish in a pan of water during cooking. I've also found that preparing eggs this way takes much longer than every cookbook I've read suggests. Still, about every six months or so, I make another attempt. This time, the results were pretty good.

The Method

  • several thin slices of good bread (I used honey wheat from Three Sons Bakery)
  • fresh eggs (Thank you OPO!)
  • pre-cooked ham or other breakfast meat (optional)
  • cheese (I used a terrific gouda from Sweet Grass Dairy)
  • several TBs unsalted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Spray a cupcake pan with cooking spray
  3. Cut the bread into sections to cover the bottom and sides of each "cup" in the pan
  4. After arranging the bread, place a small piece of meat in the bottom of each cup.
  5. Crack a single egg into each cup.
  6. Place a few small pieces of cheese, and a 1/2 tsp of butter on each egg.
  7. Bake for ... well, recipes generally say 5-7 minutes...for up to 30 minutes.
  8. Check the eggs occasionally after the first several minutes. You want the whites to just set. (I left mine in too long this time.)
The Results
This is a fun way to prepare and present eggs. The result is a crispy, toasted cup filled with creamy egg. You can easily make these without the meat or cheese, but those add something to the dish. Substituting sauteed vegetables would be great, too.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

CSA Week 21

The weather continues to be wild here. Torrential rains two days ago produced widespread flooding. The ground is over-saturated. The nights cold but the days tolerably warm. Not the best weather for farming - especially the kind practiced by our friends at Orchard Pond Organics. Growing up in a rural farming village in the Midwest, I am very sympathetic to their situation: they are committed to producing high-quality, healthy food for a number of people who have agreed to share the risks involved but do also expect to receive fresh produce each week. The hoop-house (greenhouse) was nearly underwater the other day, and the fields too wet to work. Nevertheless, we received another full share this week. Though limited in variety, high on quality. Remarkable work given all the challenges. Thanks, Mary, Steven, Jennifer, Lydia, et al.!

Oh, and we've recently bought several loaves of wonderful bread from Three Sons Bakery through OPO.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fish Tacos: Return of the radishes

We enjoyed another version of fish tacos today. Our previous successes (FT 2.0 and Taco de Pescado) have ensured these have a regular place on the menu. This post only serves to note that Radishes make a wonderful topping for fish tacos. Oh, and grapes, shredded OPO carrots, some refried beans, and a bit of salsa and sour cream.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Baked Beans, Meats, and Alaska

You may have noticed that our meals frequently involve three dishes. I'm not certain why this is so. It doesn't seem related to the amount of time or preparation involved - as you'll see in this post. Perhaps it is a minimum level of variety that feels "right"?

The origins of the ideas behind today's meal are quite different. Out of sheer concern for our nearly-full freezer, it was time to use some of the turkey and pork shoulder leftover from Christmas. A bit of ham also appeared ready for a second chance at the table, which had me thinking about a bean soup - a large bag of white beans in the pantry. Then the memory of a family favorite of my youth intruded. Finally, I relented to the request of the Junior Chef's to make good on my promise last fall to prepare a hot, sweet, and frosty treat.

Our menu: baked casserole of turkey and pork with applesauce, "New England" baked beans, and Baked Alaska.

The Method (Turkey and Pork Casserole)
Like many of you, we reach a point with holiday leftovers that demands action. Either we eat the remaining food with a burst of intense over three consecutive days of smorgesbord-ing, or we move the residuals to the freezer. I have several pounds of roasted pork shoulder (with garlic) and turkey that will demand attention in the coming weeks.

  • 2-3# roast turkey and/or pork, cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1 C broth (use any type you'd like given how you approach the recipe)
  • 2 C chunky, homemade applesauce (Thanks, Papa!)
  • 1 C mozzarella cheese (honestly, I would have used Swiss but didn't have any in the fridge)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Place the meat in an oven-ready casserole. 
  3. Add the both. 
  4. If frozen, bring to a boil on the stove-top then proceed.
  5. Cover the meat and broth with the applesauce.
  6. Spread the cheese over the applesauce.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
The Method (New England Baked Beans)
Offering a recipe for a ubiquitously popular dish like baked beans is a risky undertaking. Family and regional differences create strong preferences for ingredients; the ease of store-bought varieties makes the time involved seem burdensome. Nevertheless, I will share this from Superfoods by Delores Riccio, which contains a trove of excellent, ingredient-focused dishes. I had two pounds of beans, so I doubled the recipe.

  • 2# dried white beans (Riccio calls for yellow-eye beans)
  • 2 large onions, halved and separated
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 2/3 C molasses
  • 2/3 C pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • 1/2 # cooked ham, diced (I added this)
  1. Soak the beans
    • either overnight in a gallon of cold water, or 
    • quickly by placing in cold water, bring to a boil for 2 minutes, turn off the heat and allow the beans to sit for one hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 300.
  3. Set a pot of water to boil (2-3 quarts should do)
  4. Drain the soaked beans.
  5. Place half of the onion pieces in the bottom of a heavy casserole.
  6. Cover with the beans and ham.
  7. Mix together the brown sugar, mustard, salt, and pepper.
  8. Add this to the beans.
  9. Pour over the molasses, maple syrup, and oil.
  10. Push the remaining onion sections into the beans.
  11. Add sufficient boiling water to cover the beans.
  12. Place the covered casserole in the oven.
  13. Bake for five hours, checking hourly to stir and ensure there is enough water. Add more water if the beans begin to dry out.
  14. After five hours, remove the lid and bake another hour until the beans are tender but not mushy. (Keep an watch on the liquid level at this stage.)
The Method (Baked Alaska)
Although I cannot point to its source, I had a long-held but mistaken notion that this was a complicated (or at least, risky) dish. When I realized that one needs only ice cream, sponge cake, and egg whites to make it, I agreed to give it a shot. We did need to make the sponge cake, which I won't review here. You can buy angel food or sponge cake, make it yourself, or use a substitute of some sort - maybe slices of leftover banana bread? This recipe is taken from the Joy of Cooking.

  • cake, to cut into slices (Junior Chef #1 made a sponge cake)
  • 6 egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 C superfine sugar (I used powdered sugar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 quarts of ice cream (slightly softened to allow for scooping and shaping)
  1. Preheat the broiler to high.
  2. Make a meringue by beating the egg whites until frothy.
  3. Add the cream of tartar and salt. Continue beating until the egg whites are almost stiff.
  4. Beat in the sugar one TB at a time.
  5. Beat in the vanilla.
  6. When the meringue is stiff, quickly place the ice cream into an oven-ready dish (I used a pie tin)
  7. Shape the ice cream into an oval mound.
  8. Cover the ice cream with strips or slices of cake.
  9. Cover the entire surface with meringue.
  10. Place the dish under the broiler - watching carefully!
  11. Broil until browned (about 3 minutes).
The Results
The casserole turned out very well. That's a simple, delicious keeper! Baked beans - love in a pot. And the Baked Alaska - what fun!

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Monday, January 18, 2010


We typically sit around the kitchen table on the weekends and talk about the week's menu. The Junior Chefs often have clear ideas about what they would like to have. Occasionally, they ask for quick-and-easy dishes, but more often than not propose meals that require more time and preparation.

This week, while reviewing our CSA stock I was dreaming up options for our turnips, Junior Chef #2 suggested we have duck. Having made turducken twice, this bird is not unfamiliar within our family. I also don't find the prospect of deboning fowl to be daunting. Yet, duck has never made a solo appearance.

According to one of my favorite resource cookbooks, Laroussee Gastronomique (1961), duck and turnips is a classic French dish. The rationale is that turnips (navets) tend to absorb fat and thus are cooked with meats such as mutton and duck. LG offers a version of this dish that differs from the one I chose: employing white wine and onions, glazing the turnips with sugar.

The Method
I elected "Caneton poele aux navets" (Casserole-roasted duck with turnips) from Mastering the art of French cookingYou will need to debone your duck (naming it is optional). If you saw Julie & Julia, this is presented as a Herculean undertaking. I think this is an exaggeration of some measure. If you are confident with a paring or boning knife and have a bit of patience, you'll find this very satisfying when you're finished. (On that point, too, I offer this observation from Junior Chef #1 after watching the movie: "But didn't she [Julie] have to bone lots of ducks to make all of the duck recipes in Julia Child's cookbook?" True!)

I will not endeavor to describe the boning process - except to say, begin by cutting along the backbone and work the flesh moving down toward the breastbone. Ducks have a large carcass, but the bones are more delicate than those of a chicken, so you will find yourself working more carefully to avoid creating bone shards.

The need for very few ingredients balances out the work involved in preparing the duck.

  • one 5-6# duckling, thawed (I placed mine in cold water bath for 3 hours to rapidly thaw it.)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 TB rendered pork fat or cooking oil
  • 2# turnips
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • parsley
  1. Bone the duck.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325.
  3. Season the inside of the duck with salt and pepper.
  4. Truss the duck.I did not have butcher's twine, so I used a natural fiber twine.
    • I did not have a large-eyed needle, so I used wooden skewers.
    • Close the duck skin. Pierce and secure with pieces of skewer along the length of the back. (Poke the sharp end through, then break off a segment to leave in the duck. Repeat.)
    • Criss-cross one length of twine around and along the row of skewers. Tie off the twine.
    • Tuck in the neck and tail skin. 
    • Flip the duck over.
    • Tie lengths of twine widthwise around the duck. This will create a firm "tube-like" shape.

  1. Heat the fat or oil in a deep, oven-ready pot.
  2. Prick the skin of the duck around the thighs, back, and lower part of the breast. This allows the fat to release during cooking.
  3. Dry the duck.
  4. Brown the duck on all sides. (I didn't allow mine to brown long enough. This left the skin less crispy and more fatty than I would have liked.)

  1. Remove the duck to a plate. Season it with salt.
  2. Drain the browning fat.
  3. Return the duck to the casserole breast up.
  4. Prepare an herb bouquet by placing the parsley, bay leaf, and thyme in a piece of cheesecloth. I regularly use a coffee filter and twine for this. 
  5. Add the bouquet to the pot. Cover. Place in the oven.
  6. Roast for 50-60 minutes. You do not need to baste.

  1. Meanwhile...prepare the turnips.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
  3. Dice the turnips. As you can see, I used both my small OPO turnips and one of the two large turnips I bought from another stall at the farmers' market. I preferred the flavor of the smaller ones, which I'll discuss later.
  4. Add the diced turnips to the boiling water. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain.
  5. When the duck has cooked almost an hour, remove the pot from the oven.
  6. Degrease the duck juices and return them to the pot.
  7. Add the blanched turnips.
  8. Cover the pot and return to the oven.
  9. Baste the turnips occasionally.
  10. Cook until the duck is done. (Here I erred. I forgot to use a thermometer, and became so concerned with basting that I over-cooked the duck - to my liking, at least. The recipe states that the turnips will take 30-40 minutes. I think 15 would have be plenty.)
  11. Remove the duck and turnips to a platter. 
  12. Degrease and reserve the drippings. Serve along with the meal.
The Results

I have mixed reactions to the dish - mostly due to my choice of ingredients and errors in cooking. The overall effect was very nice. There's little to season the dish apart from the natural flavors of the bird. The turnips offered a sweet counterpoint, but were overdone. Also, the larger turnips were a tad bitter. This wasn't terribly distracting, but I would use only smaller ones next time if possible.

Some are given to believe that duck is "Greasy Goodness," as Junior Chef #1 quipped. We didn't find this true with this approach. As I mentioned, I should have browned the duck more in the beginning, so there was a little excess fattiness around the breast. And, I did cook it longer than I should have (it reached 186 degrees). For that reason, it was more tough than it should have been.

The great irony of the meal was that Junior Chef #2, who had requested duck initially, spent the night with a friend and missed it. There are leftovers, but not many - a whole duck serves 3-5 people.

One monster turnip remains in the pantry. I need to think of another dish. Lamb?

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Banana Bread: Half-and-Half

In what appears to be a violation of my self-imposed rule, I made banana bread (again) yesterday. But, I enjoy a good argument, so here are two facts that you should consider before passing final judgment. First, the ingredients are not from our CSA, recording whose preparation is the primary reason for having this blog. Second, the recipe I used was different from the first in that it reduces the sugar by half, adds milk, and uses fewer eggs. The end result was entirely different - and worth sharing with you. For reasons that will become clear, call this bread ala' Lee Majors.

The Method
This recipe is taken from Jacques Pepin's, The short-cut cook (1990), which is a wonderful collection of simple yet interesting dishes generally requiring very little time to make. (Including a cheese souffle from his mother that I want to add whole eggs not whipped whites.)

  • 1 TB corn oil or cooking spray to grease the pan
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 TB baking powder
  • 4 TB butter, slightly softened
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C milk
  • 1/2 C sunflower seeds (I used walnut pieces instead)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Grease a bread pan with the oil or cooking spray.
  3. Combine the flour, baking powder, butter, and sugar in a food processor. (I used a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, which makes me happy ever time I cook with it.)
  4. Blend until the ingredients are well combined (10-15 seconds).
  5. Peel the bananas and add them to the mixture. Blend for 5 to 10 seconds.
  6. Add the eggs, milk, and sunflower seeds (nuts).
  7. Blend until the batter is well combined.
  8. Pour the batter into the greased pan.
  9. Bake for 60 minutes, or until nicely browned. (A knife inserted at the middle should come out clean.)
  10. Cool on a baking rack before unmolding.
The Result
I ran a knife around the edge of the bread in the pan then flipped it over to release it. Thunk. The loaf split in half, leaving the bottom firmly attached to the pan and the top on my counter. So much for spreading a tablespoon of corn oil around the pan. (The second loaf I made today came out cleanly. I coated that pan with cooking spray.)

Still, I enjoyed the concordance of the halving of key ingredients and the loaf itself. (I did, actually, which is probably strikes you as strange - unless you know me well.) I quickly removed the bottom portion and rebuilt the loaf. (Six Million Dollar Man theme and intro montage running through my head.) The loaf was moist and warm enough to meld together to a fair degree.

It was a much lighter and less sweet bread than the original recipe. We enjoyed it with coffee and a few fresh, Florida strawberries.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

CSA week 20

Another cold Saturday at the farmer's market today, but with a constant drizzle to boot. There were a number of vendors out, nonetheless, and plenty of local produce. Jennifer said that Orchard Pond's plants have done well - except some of the thinner, younger crops. They are welcoming several people over the next few weeks to work on the farm. I heard there are great plans to prepare the worm castings and rainwater collection.

In this week's share:

  • carrots
  • baby radishes
  • turnips
  • rutabagas
  • collard greens

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Breakfast Monsters

We opt for fun food in our family whenever possible. One of our traditions, initiated by Senior Chef #2, is the "breakfast monster" - an amalgam of sticky, chewy, fruity, nutty items from the pantry and fridge. The beauty of these monsters is that the Junior Chefs are about to make them on their own!

Here were this morning's creations containing:

  • peanuts-only peanut butter
  • tangerines (We are in FL)
  • homemade raspberry jam (Thanks, Papa)
  • raisins

Bowtie Monster (Junior Chef #2)

Imagine the tangerine wedges as the bowtie; the raisins serving as eyes and the nose. 

My favorite aspect of this particular monster is the finger swipe through peanut butter, and the partially eaten tangerine section with seeds. 

Military Monster (Junior Chef #1)

Military monster. Hmmm? This requires a bit more interpretation...and eye squinting. The raisins, I'm told, represent the many soldiers. 

I'm not certain why this theme was chosen. The best part for me were the repeated updates from the kitchen table that the banana - secured by peanut butter - STILL had not fallen. Ah, physics.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Radishes Fowl Point Zero

The smaller CSA share this week and our earlier salad extravaganza  left us with only a few items remaining to cook. I had bought a whole chicken thinking to roast it with sage and red potatoes. That felt a little uninspired, so I decided to check the fridge. Pulling open my veggie drawer, I found a large bunch of OPO radishes, some turnips, and a number of carrots

We've come to love both radishes and turnips. In fact, the other day, we all set upon a sliced raw turnip: crunchy and spicy with just a hint of sweetness. Both remind us of horseradish - another favorite. Then it struck me: Horseradish roasted chicken. It sounded quirky but worth trying.

The Method

If you don't have the luxury of homemade horseradish grown in Midwestern soils (thanks, Dad), you will want to a) buy a horseradish root and make some, or b) purchase really good jar. You could brine the chicken in advance, but I prepared this without doing so.

  • 1  roaster chicken
  • 3-5 turnips, sliced in half/quarters if large
  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 3 carrots, roughly chopped
  • several new, red potatoes
  • 2 TB horseradish, ground
  • 2 TB butter, melted
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 TB real maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Season the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the turnips and radishes in a plastic bag.
  4. Season the turnips and radishes with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the horseradish and melted butter to the bag. Mix to coat the vegetables well.
  6. Stuff the chick with the turnip and radishes. Set breast-up into a roasting pan. (I use one with a rack, adding 2 C of water, so that I can make gravy.)
  7. Turn the bag inside-out and rub the chicken with the horseradish butter.
  8. Place the remaining vegetables around the chicken. 
  9. Season the outside of the chicken with a little salt and pepper.
  10. Drizzle with maple syrup.
  11. Roast until done, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. (Check the water level to ensure it doesn't dry out completely.)
The Results

As with several of our previous radish meals, this was scrumptious. The chicken was moist, buttery, and sweet - with just a hint of the spiciness from the horseradish. Roasted vegetables are always delicious. They held up well to the peppery flavor of the dish. The resulting gravy, however, made by adding a few tablespoons of flour and water blended together with the pan set over high burners on the stove, was the star! It had an ambrosial aroma and taste - piquant, yet creamy, blended with a touch of maple syrup. On the side, OPO mustard greens, turnip, tops, and kale.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Enwraptured: The Filling Tale of Two Dishes and a Salad

Buffalo. Junior Chef #1 asked me to make buffalo recently. Yes, our junior chefs are experienced and relatively adventurous eaters, so this request didn't catch me too much by surprise. We bought a pound of grass-fed ground buffalo, and I began to think about how best to prepare it. An obvious choice: Buffalo Empanadas. (Only obvious if you know that I've been planning to make empanadas for a couple of weeks, and thought to substitute buffalo for ground beef.)

But there were gorgeous oyster mushrooms on offer at the farmers' market this week. I had to buy a pound. While they would keep a couple of days in the fridge, I decided to make the for dinner, too. The question was, how?

We tend to overbuy food for the holidays. Generally, most of our families join us here for the week of Christmas. And to feed the multitudes, we make sure the pantry, fridge, and freezer are well-stocked. I had intended to make a couple of pots of blackbean and turkey chills to feed the ravenous throngs, but we had more than enough other food. The turkey remained unused in the freezer. Then there were the leftover crepes from our Gateau de Crepes, which have set atop several other items in the freezer - longing to be used. 

A vision. Turkey and oyster mushrooms wrapped and baked in crepes - a savory, mild counterpoint to the spicy empanadas.

... and a salad from the lovely OPO offerings this week.

It was the best of menus.

The Method (Buffalo Empanadas)

Every culture has its version of travel-friendly food.  While living in Africa and traveling through southeast Asia, I sample many interesting items - perhaps most interesting was "mbewa pan ndodo." (A quick Google search of the individual words will reveal more than you'd like to know about that culinary treat.)

The empanada takes various names and forms around the world. But the notion of stuffing breads with meats is familiar. Think of burritos and sandwiches. The calzone takes this to a larger scale. Alternate starchy coverings give us sushi/sashimi, the corndog, and meat-filled crepes in the night markets (pasar malam) of Malaysia. 

Here, I offer spicy buffalo in a crispy, buttery pastry.

The Crust

  • 2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick butter, chilled and cut into tablespoon pieces
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 egg
  • ice water (about 1/4-1/2 C)
  • 2 egg whites (reserve for filling the empanadas)
  1. Mix the flour and salt.
  2. Cut in the butter using a fork or pastry knife  until the consistency is like cornmeal
  3. Beat together the egg, vinegar, and 1/4 C of ice water.
  4. Mix the liquids with the flour and butter until the dough just begins to hold together. (It should be very flaky and loose.)
  5. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and press it into a mound. (Add a bit of ice water if it's too dry.)
  6. Knead the dough quickly and gently. You want it to just hold together.
  7. Press the dough into a disk-shape about 1/2" thick.
  8. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1+ hours. (This allows the butter to firm up and the gluten in the dough to relax.)
The Filling (while the dough is chilling)
  • 1# ground buffalo
  • 2 TB canola oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2-3 chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp Adobo seasoning
  • 1 TB tomato paste
  1. Saute the onions and garlic in the oil over medium-high heat until lightly browned.
  2. Add the ground buffalo and cook thoroughly.
  3. Stir in the chipotles, Adobo, and tomato paste.
  4. Simmer 5 minutes.
Creating the Empanadas
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Remove the dough from the fridge. 
  3. Roll the dough until it is about 1/8" thick.
  4. Cut out circles of dough about 5-6" in diameter. 
  5. Brush one half of each circle with beaten egg whites.
  6. Add 2-3 TBs of filling.
  7. Fold the dough over the filling and seal the edges using a fork.
  8. Brush with egg white.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes.
The Method (Turkey and Oyster Mushroom Crepes)

Crepes freeze very well, so we used what was on hand along with a few newly-made. They are simple to make from scratch - and quick, apart from the one hour rest period for the fresh batter.

The Crepes

  1. Whisk together until smooth: 3/4 C flour, pinch of salt, 1 C skim milk, 1 egg, and 1 egg white.
  2. Chill covered for one hour.
  3. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high.
  4. Spray with cooking spray.
  5. Remove the pan from the direct heat.
  6. Tilt the pan toward you. (Far end from the handle is higher.) 
  7. Pour about 1/4 C batter into the far end of the pan.
  8. Tilt the pan until the batter covers the bottom. (This should be a thin layer with a lacy appearance around the edges.
  9. Cook 1 minute.
  10. When the underside is lightly browned, flip the crepe.
  11. Cook 30 seconds.
  12. Remove to a plate. 
(If you choose to freeze crepes, separate them with waxed paper.)

The Filling

The filling was more involved, but still uncomplicated.

  • 1 TB butter
  • 1/2 C onion, thinly sliced
  • 4-5 C oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 TB flour
  • 1 1/2 C chicken broth
  • 2 TB sherry
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1# ground turkey
  • 1/4 C Grana padano cheese, grated (Parmesan or Asiago would substitute.)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Brown the turkey in a pan with a little butter. Set aside until you fill the crepes.
  3. Saute the onion in butter over medium heat until softened.
  4. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and thyme. Cook until mushroom release their juices, 5 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle flour over the mushroom mixture and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Slowly add the broth and sherry.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Return mixture to a boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the sauce thickens. (But don't overcook the mushrooms; they should retain some firmness.)
  9. Remove from heat.
  10. Reserve 1/2 C of the sauce.
  11. Stir the cooked turkey into the mushroom sauce.
  12. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.
  13. Add 1/3 - 1/2 C of the turkey and mushroom mixture to the center of a crepe.
  14. Fold one side over the mixture, and pull it tight against the filling with your fingers - holding the filling tightly under the flap.
  15. Fold the second side over the first to create a sealed "tube" containing the filling.
  16. Place the filled crepes in the baking dish with their seams on the bottom. 
  17. Cover the crepes with the reserved mushrooms.
  18. Sprinkle with cheese.
  19. Bake for 15 minutes.

The Results

We savored this meal in three courses beginning with a crepe apiece. These were soft and creamy with a meaty, earthy flavor from the mushrooms. The turkey contributed a firmness that offered nice contrast.

The salad was an inspired creation from our CSA share - and definitely worth a few notes here. We placed a small head of loose-leaf lettuce (variety?) on each plate. We then sprinkled chopped arugula around and over the lettuce. Next came layers of grated carrots, raw turnips, and radishes. We added sprigs of shunkigu (edible chrysanthemum) and a dressing concocted by Senior Chef #2, which was purposefully sweet to balance the strong spicy and bitter flavors of the greens. (Brown and yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, canola oil, garlic powder, and brown sugar)

We concluded with the empanadas. Dense, crunchy, and full of hot, peppery meat! They were entirely different from the crepes in almost every way. (I would roll the dough more thinly next time, and add a bit more fat to the buffalo meat.)

The meal, divided in three parts, was thus enjoyed by us one and all.

(Although there is plenty of both for a second meal.)

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CSA Week 19

Mary and Jennifer, from Orchard Pond Organics, were distributing our CSA shares in bone-chilling, finger-numbing cold yesterday. At 10 a.m., it was only 25 degrees here in northern Florida. There were a few other vendors out, too, including Ben from Manatee Mushrooms who was selling gorgeous oyster mushrooms. (He will be at the market in coming weeks with shitakes as the weather grows warmer.)

Mary and I talked about how the recent weather extremes were affecting their efforts. October and November saw an historical heat wave that took its toll on new plantings. That was followed a few weeks ago by daily rain - leading to the third wettest December on record. This kept them out of the field. Now we are experiencing some of the coldest days and nights in recent decades. At a minimum, this slows growth; at worst, it damages or kills plants. Difficult days for farmers - and requiring patience among those who support local agriculture.

Our share this week was, therefore, understandably light. Mary anticipates it will continue to be so for another couple of weeks. But she hopes to see increasing yields in the near-term. In addition, they will have OPO broilers for sale. 

  • Shungiku (the small greens, which went unidentified last week)
  • Lettuce
  • Turnips
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • eggs
  • oyster mushrooms (from Manatee Mushrooms)

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Triple "B" Pasta

I have a problem. I love cookbooks. Fortunately, people give me cookbooks regularly as gifts, so I don't often need to feed my addiction. Occasionally, however, I have perused and purchased a new cookbook before I've thought through the consequences: namely, that I have now committed myself to making several new dishes in the coming days.

Several family members and friends have mentioned they enjoy America's Test Kitchen, which I think appears on PBS. I haven't seen the show, but spied an eponymous magazine at the grocery store the other day. (The Winter 2010 issue, to be specific.) Among the many promising recipes, I stumbled upon this pasta dish. The editors note that the recipe works because "...the [Brussels] sprouts integrate with the pasta." As a lover of sprouts and integrated pasta dishes, this had to be my first choice. (Even if you are a sprout skeptic, I strongly encourage you to give this a shot. It's wonderful!) I give you Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, and Blue Cheese (plus a few improvised additions).

The Method

  • 3/4# Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced thinly (They recommend using a food processor, but it takes only a few minutes by hand.)
  • 5 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 shallots, sliced thinly (I used red onion.)
  • 1/2 C chicken broth
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 1 C crumbled blue cheese (I used Kellie's Blue from Sweet Grass Dairy, salty and intense)
  • 1# rigatoni
  • 1/2 C walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 3 large turnips (my addition)
  • 1/4# mushrooms (my addition)

  1. Cook the pasta al dente while completing the next steps.
  2. Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Remove bacon and drain off fat, reserving 2 TBs.
  3. Add reserved bacon fat to pot. Season with salt and pepper and cook the sliced sprouts and shallots (along with turnips and mushrooms, if using) until tender, 5 minutes. 
  4. Stir in cream and broth. Cook until sprouts are tender, 3 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.
  6. Toss with the cooked pasta and garnish with walnuts.

The Result

Wow! As much as we enjoy Brussels sprouts, these were even better than I'd envisioned. (A little cream and bacon certainly helped.) The turnips were an excellent addition - they brought a little spice, snap, and sweetness to the dish. The mushrooms gave another layer of earthiness. Rigatoni holds up perfectly against the thick, rich sauce. You could be tempted to add chicken, which would be fine but is unnecessary. An excellent cold weather meal.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Haluski: Pasta and Cabbage United

Unseasonably cold. As a midwesterner by birth and rearing, a little winter in Florida doesn't bother me too much. I still run around in short-sleeved shirts and sandals. But, the chill makes me crave warm, one-pot dishes. Enter Haluski. At the risk of repeating myself, we recently watched an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives that featured this dish. Thumbing through my Christmas gift, More DD&D by Guy Fieri, I found the recipe from the show and Guy's own version: Holy Haluski (p. 75). I opted to make the later, because it included two ingredients I especially love: pancetta and capers. I also used the dish as the chance to use the humongous cabbage I found last week at the farmers' market.

The Method
I made this one by the book. With an almost 8 pound cabbage, I doubled the recipe (below is the single batch). This was nearly too much for my favorite Le Creuset dutch oven; but as the cabbage cooked down I managed to fit everything. 

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound thin-sliced pancetta, diced (I had mine sliced too thinly. Opt for something a little thinner than bacon.)
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 medium head of cabbage, cored and sliced 1/2" thick (I have no idea what a medium head weighs, but I was probably cooking with 3-4 times this amount.)
  • 2 carrots, julienne (Save yourself the hassle and just diced them.)
  • 1 TB fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 8 ounces wide egg noodles (I used the real deal, not the no-yolk style.)
  • 3 TB garlic, minced (Okay, I probably used triple this amount.)
  • 3 TB capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 C peas (I used frozen)
  • 1/4 C white wine
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • Italian parsley to garnish

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil for the noodles.
  2. In a large pot, melt 1 TB butter and fry the pancetta until crisp (12-14 minutes). 
  3. Remove pancetta and drain, reserving the fat.
  4. Add 2 TB pancetta fat to pot along with the remaining butter over medium-high heat.
  5. Add the onions, cabbage, carrots, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat the veggies with butter.
  6. Cover and cook until cable is wilted and almost tender, 10 minutes. 
  7. Uncover and cook until the cabbage is very tender, 10 minutes more.
  8. While the cabbage cooks, boil the pasta al dente.
  9. Increase the heat under the pot to high and cook until the cabbage and onions are golden. [Maybe it's my stove - a lack of BTUs - or the moisture content in 8 pounds of cabbage, but it took much longer: almost 40 minutes. I also had to drain off several cups of liquid so that the veggies could sautee and not simply steam.]
  10. Add in the garlic and capers. Cook for 1 minute.
  11. Add the peas.
  12. Deglaze the pan with wine and then add the lemon juice. [I didn't achieve much of a glaze, again, probably due to the veggie volume.]
  13. Add 3/4 of the pancetta (reserve the rest to garnish). Remove from the heat.
  14. Drain the noodles and toss with the cabbage mixture. [It took so long for my cabbage to brown that the noodles were a congealed mass, which I lovingly teased apart with my fingers...okay, not really, I threw them in and stirred until they separated.]
  15. Serve immediately garnished with parsley and pancetta.

The Results
This dish has several things in its favor. It's a great way to prepare cabbage. I suspect it would be passable even among cabbage-doubters or haters. Second, it has a mixture of sweet (onion, cabbage, peas), sour (capers), and salty (pancetta) flavors. Still, the overall dish is mellow. We paired it with a glass (or two) of the remaining wine and an OPO  arugula salad with a sharp, tangy vinaigrette.

Doubling the recipe means that we've eaten only half during three separate meals this week. As good as this was, it's going to take really willpower to eat it three more times. Unfortunately, I think it will freeze poorly; but I may give that a shot. In the end, I should have used half of the monster cabbage to make sarma.

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Pizza: Flexible, Forgiving, and Fantastic

Admittedly, I consider myself a gourmand and yet readily acknowledge that pizza is one of my favorite foods. While everyone has their favorite local or chain pizza place, I prefer homemade pizza. It does take time to prepare the dough, but beyond that it requires little preparation and the final product is.

Tonight we were making pizza for birthday party crowd, but I ran out of sauce (both tomato and pesto). I turned to the fridge for options. Here was the delicious, extemporaneous result.

The Method
Three of today's purchases came immediately to mind (with their intended dishes for later in the week shown):

  • prosciutto (for haluski)
  • raw goat's milk blue cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy (for rigatoni with bacon, brussel sprouts and blue cheese)
  • grapes (for snacking)
  1. Preheat the oven to 475.
  2. Brush the pizza dough (stretched to size; here 6" diameter) with olive oil.
  3. Layer sliced grapes, followed by slices of prosciutto and crumbled blue cheese.
  4. Add a dusting of mozzarella.
  5. Bake 10-12 minutes. (Keep an eye on this; it browns very quickly toward the end.)

The Results
Salty, sweet, savory...with a crispy crust. This is a decadent treat - and a tasty alternative to more standard sauce, meat, veggie combinations. (Sorry for not including a picture of the cooked pizza; we ate it too quickly!) It could include spinach or other greens. Also, I kept the toppings to a minimum, which allowed the crust to play a starring role. After all, it was the most involved part of the dish - and worth the prandial attention. This will make many repeat appearances at our table.

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CSA Week 18

After forgetting to collect our CSA share last week, we were determined to arrive early at the farmers' market today. Lydia was kind enough to reward this effort with a few turnips she had harvested yesterday. Yay! Thank you! In addition, we received:

  • mustard greens
  • arugula
  • radishes
  • carrots
  • eggs (the OPO hens are laying well)
  • fennel (hmmm, fish perhaps?)
  • kale
  • small green chile

I also bought this incredibly large cabbage from my favorite grower. Take a guess at its weight...

7 pounds, 12.7 ounces

I'll use half to make haluski this week, and half for stuffed cabbage leaves.

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Kudya Bwino Bwino (Eating Well) © 2009