Sunday, June 28, 2009

A perfect early summer meal

This isn't so much a post about recipes, as just a celebration of a dinner made from local food.

First, steamed beets, sliced and tossed with butter. My sister loves beets so much that she believes butter's purpose on earth is to be combined with beets. Usually I make pickled beets, which is my favorite way to eat them, but for the first beets of the season, I made them Julie's way. They were sensational.

Next, a beautiful salad, with two kinds of lettuce and arugula, radishes and salad turnips. Dressing loaded with garlic scapes, and a couple of tablespoons of chopped parsley and dill from my herb garden.

Finally, a classic in my kitchen: "Spinach Squares." Also known as crustless quiche, and the basis for those little mini-quiches I made a few weeks back. (These are also great brunch food.)

3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup (or more - up to 1/2 lb) grated sharp cheddar
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
as much spinach as you can procure
onion/garlic/leeks/etc. (I'd use one small onion -- use that as your guide for amounts of other things)

Saute onion (I had some lovely spring leeks so I used those) in 2 tablespoons of olive oil till softened.

I had one good-sized bunch of spinach, but could easily have used two. Also I have successfully made this with frozen chopped spinach -- a one-lb. bag works perfectly.

Chop the spinach and add to the pot with the onion. Let it just wilt -- don't cook it too much. Allow it to cool.

preheat oven to 350.

In a 9x13 pan, melt a tablespoon of butter. Tilt the pan so the bottom and sides are coated.

Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl.

In another bowl, beat the eggs, then add the milk, the cheese, and the spinach mixture. Carefully mix in the dry ingredients, then spread into the prepared pan.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Strawberry roll cake

We picked strawberries, 6.5 lbs, which yielded enough for 4.5 pints of jam (still making the old-fashioned, long-simmered, no-added-pectin kind), plus the sauce for this strawberry roll cake, and some just for snacking. I still have plans to pick more in a few days. I want to be drowning in jam. Jon loves strawberry jam; I love making it. Good thing we're married.

Several factors contributed to the making of this cake:

1. I had a weird hankering to make a roll cake a couple of weeks ago, and told Arij maybe I'd make one for my birthday in a few months. (Planning ahead is so important, don't you think?)

2. The kids requested shortcake (complete with whipped cream), but I was pretty sure they were thinking "cake" and not "biscuit," so I thought I should make something cake-like for the base.

3. I consulted The Joy of Cooking for cake recipes; they suggested a sponge cake. My original intention (lacking little cake molds) was to cut it up into squares and layer them with a little strawberry syrup and top with whipped cream.

4. But then all three of these things coalesced and I thought, why not just roll that sheet of spongy-sweet goodness up with some strawberries?

The result was yummy.

The cake was moderately fussy. The recipe instructed me to beat 5 eggs with 3/4 a cup of sugar for 5 minutes (with a stand mixer) or 7-10 minutes (with a hand-held mixer). Well, since I don't actually BAKE cakes (or so goes the logic in my little brain), I don't own a stand mixer. Besides . . . where would I *keep* it?! But I was making this as I was stirring jam, sterilizing jars, supervising my kids, etc., so I couldn't very well stand there all that time. So I took breaks, and estimated, and tried to gauge whether it resembled "soft whipped cream." (Oh, I also worried if one could OVER mix it and ruin it irreparably.) So I finally just stopped beating it already and added the 3/4 cup of sifted cake flour, the teaspoon of baking powder, and the 3 T of melted butter combined with 1/4 cup of hot milk.

The baking was uneventful: I poured the batter into an 11x17 pan lined with the sil-pat (basically reusable parchment paper) and baked for 9 minutes. You have to invert it right away onto foil, wait for it to cool, and then peel off the parchment, flip it back over and peel the foil off. Then it's ready to go.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

basil and garlic scape pesto, with an elaborate presentation

Do you ever fiddle around with food, preparing multiple parts of a dish, only to realize you've just spent an inordinate amount of time on something that doesn't really even count as a full meal?

Oh. Maybe it's just me, then.

Moving right along . . . We got a little bunch of basil, yielding maybe a loosely-packed cup, from our CSA this week. Not enough to really make pesto with. But we also got a generous clump of garlic scapes, and together, I thought they'd make a great pesto. I shelled a couple of walnuts and tossed them in the processor, followed by 3 or 4 coarsely chopped scapes and the basil, adding a little olive oil to loosen it up. I added a few pinches of salt and some parmegano reggiano, and scooped it into a jar. Lovely.

But what to eat it on? Pasta? Yawn. How about polenta? But I apparently am incapable of making it and leaving it alone. I made my oven-baked polenta, then stirred in about a cup of grated romano cheese. I scooped it into a loaf pan and let it solidify.

Somewhere along the way, I realized I had a few mushrooms that my mom had brought me, and they weren't getting any fresher . . . . so I chopped those up and seared them in olive oil with a little salt.

Once the polenta was (almost) solid -- almost because I ran out of time -- I (washed the processor and then) processed up a couple of slices of pain de campagne from several days ago to make crumbs. I dipped the polenta slices into a an egg beaten with a little salt and a couple tablespoons of milk, and then into bread crumbs. I baked them at 400 for 20 minutes, flipped them over, and baked for 20 more minutes.

But really, does fussed-over polenta topped with fungus and elaborately-wrought weeds mushrooms and pesto really constitute a meal? No, I didn't think so either.

So I threw together a salad, with scallions, radishes and beautiful lettuce, dressed with a lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette. (Um, is it still vinaigrette if it doesn't contain vinegar? Clearly, one for the ages.)

Know what? It's a good thing I have an indulgent spouse who puts up with this kind of thing for dinner. The fact that it tasted beyond fabulous probably had something to do with it.

(As you can see, the camera situation is getting pretty desperate around here. I have *got* to upgrade.)

braised turnip and radish greens, for breakfast

We had two beautiful bunches of turnips and greens, as well as one of radishes. I've read that radish greens are edible, and they looked so fresh and yummy, so I decided to toss those in with the turnip greens.

I cleaned them and chopped them, then tossed them into a heavy pot with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. I added a couple of minced garlic scapes and some salt.

I stirred for a bit, and then wondered what I'd use for braising liquid. Water would do, I guess . . . then I remembered that I'd just cooked lentils for lentil salad (see two posts ago) . . . that lentil cooking water would be perfect!

I cooked them for about 10 minutes, maybe, or a little more, till they were tender.

Leftovers, pictured above: toasted pain de campagne, topped with warmed juicy greens and an egg.

(Yes, this would be Jon's plate, with the leftover steak for breakfast. He and my dad were in heaven.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Garden radishes!!

So, so excited about my own radishes, harvested this morning.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lentil salad with my favorite vinaigrette

I have been using a fabulous combination of salad dressing ingredients for quite some time, now. But as part of my ongoing internal dialog about whether I can post a recipe from someone else verbatim, I have not shared it here.


I have recently found variations on this dressing in more than one place, and I realized that I have indeed varied it enough myself that I can post it in good conscience.

So here it is, My Favorite Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1 tsp to 1 T minced allium-family item (shallot, onion, garlic, scallion, chive, garlic scapes)
1/4 tsp salt
freshly-ground black pepper
1-2 T fresh parsley, minced (other fresh herbs work well, too, but don't use too many at once)
about 1 T sour cream
about 1 T dijon mustard
about 1 T capers (optional)

Mix the vinegar, salt and minced allium and let stand for 10 minutes. Then add the rest of the ingredients and shake or stir vigorously.

This dressing is great on a green salad, or on julienned radishes or baby turnips (a personal favorite), or on legumes.

I threw together a version with lentils de puy when I realized last week at 5.30 that I had no protein item for our dinner.

Lentil salad

3/4 cup lentils, sorted and rinsed.
4 radishes, halved or quartered and thinly sliced
2 scallions, chopped fine

Cook lentils in 3 cups salted water till tender but not falling apart, about 40 minutes. Drain. (I used the cooking water to help braise some turnip and radish greens we ate with the lentil salad.)

Toss the lentils with the dressing while they're still hot. Allow to cool to room temperature before adding the radishes and scallions.

You might want extra salt or pepper.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Simple rhubarb

Yesterday I went to the Lexington Farmer's Market. What a great market, with tons of vendors and great local food energy. I had to restrain myself, as I have another CSA pickup today, but I did buy a few things, including a big bundle of rhubarb from Blue Heron Organic Farm in Lincoln.

Once home, I cleaned and chopped the rhubarb. It yielded maybe 3 or 4 cups? I put it in a baking dish, stirred in maybe a half cup of brown sugar and a half teaspoon of cinnamon and baked it at 350 for about 40 minutes, stirring often.

It's a lovely little compote, just a little sweet but with that inimitable rhubarb flavor shining through! I'm thinking I'll stir it into oatmeal . . . spread it on toast . . . mix it into yogurt and eat it with granola . . . I don't think it will last long!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Vegetables for breakfast

I'm trying to incorporate more vegetables into my life. One strategy I hit upon was to try to eat a vegetable with *every* meal -- even breakfast, even lunch -- even if it just means a few lettuce leaves, or a raw carrot. I don't claim that I am managing this all the time, but it's a goal to strive for. One strategy, of course, involves using leftovers.

I like a shot of protein in the morning, so I often eat an egg. I'm a big fan of the improvised fritatta -- with leftover greens, or pasta, or even quinoa. (One of these days I'll blog my quick quinoa dish -- fast fast and very versatile, and the leftovers make a great fritatta.)

Today I didn't have an egg, though: I had the classic radish sandwich, the makings of which are pictured above. (I made the bread yesterday.) A slice of pain de campaigne, lightly buttered and covered with thinly-sliced radish, topped with a sprinkle of kosher salt. Heavenly.

I also ate the other night's turnips and greens, also pictured above, reheated and spooned over another slice of bread, lightly toasted. (Side note: I generally prefer baby turnips raw, sliced thinly or julienned and dressed with my variation on Deborah Madison's mustard vinaigrette, but this time I sliced them, sauteed in olive oil with some garlic and their chopped greens. A delicious preparation, but I do think I prefer them raw. They're sharper raw, whereas cooked they're SO sweet and melting. They provide a nice foil for their greens, though, which retain their sharpness even when they're cooked.)

Finally (don't be grossed out), I ate leftover baked beans on toast. Didn't I say I need protein in the morning? I usually go for an egg, but beans can serve me well, too!

(A final note: I apologize for the lousy quality of the pictures. My camera is not doing that well. Maybe one of these days, I'll upgrade.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Quick bok choi

Today was the first pickup at our summer CSA. (It also might be a year ago today that I started this blog -- can that really be?!) I participated, a little, in a new member orientation that was instituted this year, and Ellie, one of the growers, pitched this blog (Thanks, Ellie!) And then I had a conversation with a new member about what to do with bok choi -- I sort of rattled off a "recipe," but told her (hi, Debbie!) that I'd put one up here.

1 bunch bok choi (these bunches were huge -- maybe a pound?)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 large-garlic-clove-size piece of fresh ginger, minced
2 T soy sauce
1 (scant) T rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 heaping T corn starch
1 T canola oil mixed with 1 tsp Asian sesame oil

The biggest trouble I have with bok choi is how watery it can be. I think I came up with a solution. I chopped the leaves, but kept the stems separate, and cooked them first. Also, I used plenty of corn starch in the sauce.

Note: as you can see from the pictures, I wasn't super-careful about keeping the stems and leaves separate. It doesn't really matter; just be sure you get most of the stems separated.

Heat the canola and sesame oils in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the stems and cook, tossing or stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until they're tender (try a piece -- you don't want it soggy, but you want it to cook down a bit and let that excess water cook off.)

Add the green part of the leaves as well as the ginger and garlic. Continue tossing/stirring for another 3 or 4 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and corn starch and stir well.

Give the sauce an extra stir right before adding it to the skillet of greens. Stir constantly to coat all the bok choi with sauce and let the sauce thicken (about 30 seconds?), then remove from heat and serve.

Edited to add: We get a *lot* of bok choi, so I reprised this a few days later. This time I used Loriva brand roasted peanut oil combined with canola to cook with, and drizzled on a couple of teaspoons of toasted sesame oil at the end. I also increased the amount of sauce I made to accommodate the cooked soba noodles I tossed in to make a meal out of it.

Next up, maybe, fried rice with bok choi.