I've been stressed lately, and feeling more behind than usual. Wanna see what I've been up to?
While at the KSTP studios preparing for a TV demo on the basics of canning tomatoes, drama struck. The heavy granite countertop shifted in the hands of the movers and broke, sending a big, heavy chunk to the floor---smashing it to bits. the glass cook top clattered into the body of the cabinet. Guess I'll use hot plates for the demo. Okey dokey.
I host our chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association board meetings. Board member, Chuck Banks, brought me an enormous pineapple tomato. It weighs 662 grams. That's nearly a pound and a half. My kitchen scale is stuck on grams, and I can't figure out how to switch it back to pounds. I do have a second scale, but the batteries are dead..... I added the rubber chicken for a sense of scale.
Did you read that scandalous article about refrigerating your tomatoes? I tried it, and they are correct. IF you let your tomatoes get fully ripe on the vine or at least on your counter, they can be refrigerated with no loss of flavor or texture. WOW.
We had lasagna, French bread with cultured butter, a salad, and a big platter of refrigerated sliced tomatoes for dinner.
I'm guest chef at a big gala at the MN governor's residence. I never do things the easy way. I'm sourcing ingredients all over the place. Like this beauty from Forest Mushroom in St. Joseph, MN. It's a 5 lb 4 oz hen or the woods, aka maitake, mushroom. The owner has a picker who found it in the local woods. He's sending it to me in St. Paul as I write this. $500 a plate.....no pressure. (Actually, the full time chef, Micah, is doing the heavy lifting--I'm only doing one course and the after party food, and sourcing all the ingredients........and a bunch of silent auction donations.......) Thank you Greg Reynolds or Riverbend Organic Farm, Peterson Produce, Kadejan Chicken, Thousand Hills Cattle Co, Corner Table, Tilia, Stickney Hill Dairy, Alemar cheese, St. Agnes Bakery, .........Sommelier Marcus Hanson and whole bunch of cool wineries owned by Minnesotans.
Do you like Peet's Coffee? Good. Soon their shops will have breakfast sandwiches like these. I've been helping them figure this out for nearly a year.
Even so, a girl has to eat. I've been enjoying the veggies from the box all summer long. Here is a nice noodle recipe, I think you'll like.
BUCKWHEAT SOBA NOODLES WITH KALE AND MISO DRESSING
This is nice hot or cold and everything in between. I like how the hot noodles barely poaches the kale. It's a good side to grilled fish. Bonus.....buckwheat is gluten free.
1 bunch kale
1 (10 to 11 oz pkg.) buckwheat soba noodles or whole wheat spaghetti
3 Tbsp. miso paste
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 to 1 tsp. sambal or other chile paste
2 green onions, sliced
black sesame seeds for garnish
Make 6 side dish servings or 4 entrees.
The garden box this week was filled with late summer goodness. So much is obvious, but one....not so much. Okra. Okra can be a bit of a stretch for a midwestern girl. You'll notice when you slice it, it is sticky. These sticky juices can turn slimy if you don't give it the proper acid balance. Tomatoes and okra love each other. Cook them together for a nice little side, or better yet....make some gumbo for supper this week. We had it tonight and it was GREAT!
Gumbo is different in a couple of ways. It is thickened and flavored with a dark roux made of flour cooked in oil and butter. This deep browning also limits the ability of the starch to thicken the broth, and that's where the okra shines. That sticky sap melds with the tomato and browned roux to make a perfect stew.
I love to visit little butcher shops in all the small towns around me. Today I had a meeting at Gale Woods Farm and grabbed a sandwich for lunch at Mackenthun's Meats. The sandwich was fine, but the andouille sausage I brought home was stellar. If you can't find smoked or fresh andouille sausage, plain smoked sausage will work just fine.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
salt and pepper
1/4 lb. smoked andouille sausage, cut into bite sized pieces
3 Tbsp. butter (divided)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup chopped sweet pepper, about 1 medium bell or 2 sweet Italian
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery, with leaves
2 cups chopped tomatoes, about 4
2 cups chicken broth (homemade or low sodium)
2 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
1 cup sliced okra
3 cups hot cooked rice
Makes 6 servings
Tip: For 3 cups of cooked brown rice, combine 1 cup raw rice with 2 cups cold water and a pinch of salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand another 10 minutes.
By the way......when I call for a fat batard, I'm referring to the loaf of bread, not the guy in the kilt......
GRILLED EGGPLANT PANZANELLA SALAD
This nice for lunch or with grilled chicken or steak for a late summer dinner.
8 (1/2-inch thick) slices peeled eggplant (about 1/2 of one large)
salt and pepper
4 (1-inch thick) slices country French or Italian style bread (fat batard or boule shapes)
1 small clove garlic
1 large tomato, coarsley chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 cup coarsely chopped arugula
3 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
Makes 4 servings
Tender Baby Turnips
These are such a treat. I washed these tiny jewels with a terry washcloth, trimmed the tops and the tails and split them in half. I covered them in water and simmered them just until tender. After I drained them I added a bit of butter and let them bubble and brown a bit before I seasoned them with salt and pepper. Simple and lovely.
Evicting Hitchhikers on Your Broccoli
Cute little green worms tucked into your organic broccoli is good sign. Who wants to eat something that the bugs don't even want?! Simply pull the broccoli into florets and soak them in cold salt water for about 10 minutes before cooking. Lift out the broccoli and you'll see the worms have let go.
If you happen to have a good meat shop like Rieder's in Delano or Clancey's. Chances are good that you can get some fine house cured dried beef. Sometimes smoked but always salty and delicious it rivals its fine cured Italian cousin, braesaola. A bit of dried beef draped across a slice of melon is a luscious treat.
The first summer melon will probably be gobbled up as it is. I remember a chef asking Greg his favorite way to eat melon and he said with his pocket knife. When you feel like switching your melon up a bit, try this. Add a few slivers of melon to your next green salad or enjoy a diced savory melon and cucumber salad on the side of your next grilled steak. Garnish with a little chopped cilantro and mint.
Thai Dressing for Melon
IT'S TIME FOR RATATOUILLE
If you haven't seen this movie, you should. After watching this with my son when he was little, I made him ratatouille. He still loves it---who knew I'd get all sentimental over eggplant stew, but I do. I love to make a big batch. We eat it hot on pasta or cold in sandwiches. (By the way....Both kids asked me to make Puttanesca sauce after reading Lemony Snicket and that's how they came to love anchovies at an early age---funny stuff--this pop culture.)
You don't really need a recipe for this, but if you'd like one, here you go.
Loose Meat Philly Cheese Steaks
I love this recipe from my friend, Raghavan. You can learn more about this amazing chef, here. The cooling cucumbers, mint and yogurt play an interesting counterpoint to the heat of the chilies. Raita is so versatile I enjoy this spooned over sliced tomatoes, grilled chicken, or scooped up with flat bread. Of course it's also really good gobbled up with a spoon. Enjoy.
Soused Cucumbers in Yogurt and Fresh Mint(Kakadi Raita)
Curries by Raghavan Iyer; yield: about 2 cups (serves 8)
Thoroughly combine all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Serve chilled or at room temperature. This will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Enjoy this little peek into Raghavan's latest book. This practical book is worth having on your shelf.
From Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer
When you have a surplus of juicy cucumbers from your garden and get tired of canning, pickling, or slicing them atop salads, try turning them into the cooked vegetable du jour to accompany grilled meats or what-have-you. We Indians, especially from northwestern India, delicately spice cucumbers with cumin and turmeric, and cook them until just tender. This is one of those vegetables that when cooked exudes surprising succulence with each bite. The cucumber has an almost squashlike quality (no surprise since it is from that family) that seems to come through much more sharply when warmed.
2. Place 1 teaspoon of the cumin seeds in a spice grinder (you can also use a coffee grinder) and grind them to the consistency of finely ground black pepper. Set the ground cumin aside.
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil appears to shimmer, sprinkle in the remaining teaspoon of cumin seeds, which will instantly sizzle and turn reddish brown and fragrant, 5 to 10 seconds. Add the bell pepper and the chiles and stir-fry until the bell pepper softens a bit and the chiles start to smell pungent, about 2 minutes.
4. Stir in the ground cumin, salt, and turmeric; the heat will be just right to cook the spices without burning them, 15 to 30 seconds. When the spices cook, their aromas change into a more sophisticated nuttiness. Add the cucumbers, stir well once or twice, and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the cucumbers are tender but still firm looking, 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Stir in the lime juice and serve the cucumbers warm.
These gnocchi tossed with some freshly steamed green beans are heavenly. I love gnocchi. The soft pillowy potato version are my favorite. They are always made with starchy potatoes. Recipes always come with the caution to avoid adding too much flour, lest they become heavy. I wondered if I could use new potatoes instead--and did with excellent results. I break another rule here. To keep from over handling this delicate dough, I don't bother pushing the little ridges into each dumpling. To be perfectly honest, if I'm making gnocchi for dinner--I rarely do that step and we all enjoy the plain little pillows just as they are. These little guys are kind of homely. The skin flecked dumplings retain the earthy new potato flavor which is why I brown them with some chopped parsley at the end.
New Potato Gnocchi
Breaking all the gnocchi rules, new potatoes, no ridges, leaving the skins on---oh my!
1 pound new potatoes, scrubbed clean but skin on
plenty of ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups flour, plus extra
2 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley leaves
Serves two as an entree or 4 as a side.
Roasted Baby Turnips with Miso Butter
Trim turnips and cut in half if large. Arrange on rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with a tiny bit of vegetable oil. Roast at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender and browned.
Toss hot turnips with melted butter and a bit of miso paste. Sprinkle with ground pepper.
The veggies cook while the pasta boils. Dinner in less than 20 minutes.
1 lb. dry fettuccine
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium eggplant, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 small sweet pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
3 Tbsp. fresh basil, torn
1 cup arugula, torn
Makes 4 to 6 servings
That beautiful rapini, not actually broccolini or broccoli rabe--but so similar they can be handled the same. It really has more in common with mustard greens and turnips than broccoli. The bitter mustard-ness must be tamed. The easiest way to that is to blanche it first then sautee in oil.
A Quick Breakfast Sandwich
Last week I had lunch with a friend at a new spot in Minnepolis, Agra Culture. It was such a pretty day. My lunch was nice, but my friends was better. I recreated it at home the next day.
Chili Cornbread Skillet
I created this for the October page of the Twin Cities Live recipe calendar. You get a sneak peak here. I used the cornmeal from Riverbend Farm, so thought I'd include the recipe for you to use. It may not win big in the creativity department, but it's homey and good and certainly family friendly.
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 mild green chile, chopped (like banana, Anaheim or poblano)
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 (15 to 16 oz.) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 to 15 oz.) can chopped tomatoes
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
3 Tbsp. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
garnishes: sour cream, chopped onion, chopped cilantro, shredded cheddar
Heat oven to 425 degrees F. In an oven proof 10-inch skillet, cook ground beef, onion, garlic, green chile and chili powder over medium heat, stirring often, until beef is browned.
Add cumin, beans and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer 4 or 5 minutes to thicken. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
In a medium bowl, stir together cornbread ingredients. Drop by spoonfuls on top of chili and spread to cover.
Bake 25 minutes or until cornbread is golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Top each portion with optional garnishes.
Makes 8 servings
Reusable Produce Bags
I first saw these at a friends' house. They had a few of them in the crisper drawer.
They would be easy to make. Here are instructions. But you can also find them on line or in stores. They don't work so well for lettuce type things. I'll stick with my plastic bag. I'm still using the same 2 gallon bag from the first CSA box, so that's not too bad. They are handy for sturdier items, like broccoli, zukes and cukes.
Another slick feature, is you can wash your produce while it's still in the bag. Pretty neat for root veggies.
People have very specific expectations of their vegetables. Tomatoes are red, carrots are orange, and zucchini are green.....except when they're not. I think unexpected hues are fun. The yellow zucchini in the box this week works great in zucchini cupcakes. The pretty yellow flecks look right at home where the green can be a bit off-putting to a wary toddler.
Frost these with a nice brown butter or cream cheese frosting. A dusting of powdered sugar is nice, too. But I like them just fine plain. I had one with a little sharp cheese for breakfast.
1-1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil, like canola or sunflower
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1-1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup chopped pecans, if desired
I've included the following pasta salad because it's handy to have all mixed up in the fridge for a quick meal. I always like to serve this kind of salad on a handful of mixed green---I used arugula in the photo. It was great. This intensely garlicky dressing mellows and thickens after a day in the fridge. It makes a great veggie dip.
Orzo Pasta Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing
If you can, make this salad a day before you serve it. The pasta soaks up a lot of the dressing and the garlic mellows pleasantly. Of course you can cook the orzo in plain old salted water, but the broth adds another layer of flavor to this salad.
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed OR 2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes, or other chopped fresh vegetables
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 chopped fresh basil
Creamy Garlic dressing (recipe follows)
1 tsp. each, salt and pepper
In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Add the orzo and cook, partially covered, until just tender, about 7 minutes. Drain (reserving broth for soup) and place in a large serving bowl to cool, stirring occasionally.
When the pasta is cool, toss with remaining ingredients
Makes 6 servings
Creamy Garlic Dressing
This is an old fashioned Chicago steakhouse recipe.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped green onions
2 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. onion powder
Whisk all together and keep refrigerated in a jar for up to a week.
Makes 1 1/4 cups
A Word About Oregano
Add a handful of fresh oregano leaves to your next batch of pesto. You'll be glad you did. Wow.