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.
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Zucchini Cupcakes
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.
3 eggs
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

  1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, oil, orange juice and extract.
  2. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to egg mixture and mix well.
  3. Stir in zucchini and nuts.
  4. Fill paper-lined or greased muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

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.
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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


PESTO


Add a handful of fresh oregano leaves to your next batch of pesto.  You'll be glad you did.  Wow.  
 
 
Fennel is a favorite of mine. The crisp, fleshy bulb is great raw or cooked.  The leafy tops are pretty and nice used as an herb.   I love it raw, sliced into slivers.  I love it shaved into salads and slaws.  The snappy licorice flavor pairs well with citrus and vinaigrettes.  When it's roasted the anise flavor mellows and the sweetness comes out--making it one of the most sophisticated flavors out their.  It's great with potatoes, too.  I love it sliced up and tucked into a creamy gratin of scalloped potatoes.  

Notice the thyme I used is in full bloom.   Isn't it pretty?!   I like to keep my herbs cut back hard when they are blooming and trying to make seeds.  This is a good way to use up your blooming herbs.  Sage, fennel, oregano, marjoram and parsley all work well with chicken.  
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Roast Chicken with Vegetables
I love to use veggies as the roasting rack under a plump chicken.  Change out the veggies, using whatever is in season.  Winter squash, and bell peppers are nice.  

When I roast a smallish chicken like this, I don't bother trying to carve it into slices.  I use a big knife and cut it from end to end, then cut it in half again into quarters.  

1 (3 to 4 lb) chicken, washed and patted dry
1 large bunch thyme
1 lemon, quarter
1 small head garlic, unpeeled and cut in half
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
salt and pepper
1 small onion, sliced
4 carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 large bulb fennel, tops removed, root end intact, cut into wedges
1 bulb kohlrabi, peeled and cut into wedges

1.  Heat oven to 425 degrees F.  Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the thyme, lemon and garlic.  Loosen the skin on the breast and slip in a bit of butter on each side.  Smear the rest of the butter all over the bird, making sure to smear the butter under the skin.  Season well with salt and pepper.  Use kitchen string to tie the "ankles" of the chicken together.  I like to tie the string into a bow to make it easy to remove.
2.  With your buttered hands, drop the veggies into roasting pan, just large enough to hold the chicken.  An old-fashioned oval roaster is what I used, but a 13x9-inch pan works just fine.  
3.  Nestle the chicken on top and roast 1 1/2 hours or until the leg moves freely in the socket.
4.  Remove the chicken to a cutting board and tent with foil to keep warm; let it rest 10 minutes.  
5.  Use a slotted spoon to toss the with the pan juices, then lift  to a serving platter and season with salt and pepper.  Scrape the pan juices into a small bowl to spoon over individual servings.  
6.  Remove the string and pull out the stuffing if you wish.  Discard the herbs, but capture some of the roasted garlic to serve with the veggies.  Use a large sharp knife to cut roast chicken into quarters and arrange on platter with veggies.  Spoon a little of the pan juices over all. If desired garnish with chopped fresh fennel fronds or herbs.

4 servings

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Fennel Slaw
While this is written for all fennel, it is equally tasty with half shredded cabbage and half fennel.
  • 1 large fennel bulb (or 2 medium bulbs) (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 2 teaspoons minced shallot or onion

1.Make the vinaigrette. Put the lemon juice, shallot, mustard, salt, sugar and mint in a blender and pulse briefly to combine. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until it is well combined.

2 Using a mandoline or a vegetable peeler shave the fennel into 1/8 inch slices starting from the bottom of the bulb. Don't worry about coring the fennel bulb, it's unnecessary. If you don’t have a mandoline, slice the bulb as thin as you can. Chop some of the fennel fronds as well to toss in with the salad.

3 Toss with the fennel and marinate for at least an hour. Serve this salad either cold or at room temperature.

Makes 4 to 6 servins


 
 
Some of the scapes have been pureed with just enough olive oil to get them to move in the blender.  I keep this small jar in the fridge.  I added a spoonful to some sautéed mushrooms I spooned on our steak.  There is also a bit of chopped green onion top in there.
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Greens can be an unfamiliar thing.  The pretty bunches of lettuce are easy to understand.  Who doesn't love a crisp salad or fresh leaf or two on a sandwich. Try adding a handful of shredded lettuce to your dish of buttered steamed snow peas--along with a bit of fresh mint and the usual salt and pepper.  

The fresh chard with it's colorful stems can be a bit of a challenge.  The puckery tannic nature of the leaves means they are best cooked.  The stems this week are tiny and tender so they'll cook up right along with the leaves.  Chard is in the beet family--all those crazy colored stems fall into line with all the colors in the beet rainbow.  Chard also mimics the earthy sweet flavor of a beet--with just a bit less sweetness and more green grassy notes.  In the photo above, I've added a handful of chopped chard to a skillet of sliced potatoes I've cooked in a bit of bacon fat.  Olive oil works too.  I sliced up the white bulb of a couple of green onions to cook to a mellow sweetness with the potatoes.  You can see the potatoes are just barely done.  I've washed the greens and chopped them while still wet.  That's when I toss them into the hot skillet and drop on the cover.  They steam a bit in the water clinging to the leaves then they collapse and mingle with the potatoes.  

Kale is a brassica--which means it's in the cabbage family along with broccoli and turnips.  That also means you should cook them a little or a lot.  If you cook them briefly the sulfur in the leaves never develops that "rotten egg" stinkiness.  OR if you stew them a long time in a brothy braise that sulfur blows off and leaves behind a mellow sweetness that marries so well with smoked meats.  A meaty smoked turkey wing does wonders for a pot of braised kale.  Add cornbread to make it a meal.

 
 
One item in your box and not mine I forgot to mention last week is garlic scapes.  When the garlic grows it sends up a shoot with a curly-que end.  That end has a bud that will eventually bloom and make baby garlic bulblets.  A funny thing about those curly scapes is the way they shoot up straight and tall after a while.  Some say that happens with a full moon....hmmm.  When they are young and curly they are tender and delicious.  If you bury your nose in a bag of scapes (yes I've done that.....don't judge) you'll notice a lemony fragrance along with the pungent garlic.  

8 ways to enjoy your scapes:
  1. cut into 1-inch pieces and stir fry with chicken or other veggies.
  2. puree with olive oil and freeze to use a spoonful at a time in vinaigrettes, mayos, dips....
  3. make into pesto
  4. thinly slice and add raw to creamy salads--like potato salad, cole slaw or chicken salad
  5. chop and add to filling of deviled eggs
  6. pickle them (they're great in bloody marys)
  7. whirl in a food processor with softened butter: use for garlic bread, to make walleye scampi, to toss with steamed veggies, spread on sweet corn, on baked potatoes
  8. chop and add to hash browns



Kimchi
I love spicy pungent kimchi.  The garlic, ginger, chili spiked pickled cabbage is a way to pack a lot of flavor into your food with just one ingredient.  It truly is a convenience food.  
  • Spoon it straight out of the jar onto pulled pork sandwiches, smoky slice beef brisket, hot dogs, brats or burgers.  
  • Use the juice to spike mayo for great sandwiches, creamy salads, deviled eggs, and great salad dressings
  • Add a half cup to the next beef or pork pot roast you make in your slow cooker.   It tenderizes as well as flavors the meat.
  • Use to make classic Kimchi soup.  Mmmmm
  • Add a half a cup to your regular cole slaw.
Kimchi-Braised Pot Roast

 Makes: 8 servings

Braising kimchi and beef together might seem a bit odd, but like its German cousin, sauerkraut, Korean fermented cabbage contributes a lot of complex and deep flavors when cooked with meat.
3 1/2 to 4 pounds beef chuck roast
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, medium dice
2 cups cabbage kimchi or sauerkraut
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch rounds
1/2 medium daikon radish, peeled and large dice (or 1 cup daikon cube kimchee)

Heat the oven to 325°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Pat beef dry with paper towels, then season generously on all sides with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pot with a tightfitting lid over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sear beef on all sides until golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the kimchi (and the daikon kimchee if your using), stir to combine, and bring to a simmer. Add the broth and water and bring to a simmer again.  Nestle the beef into the mixture in an even layer and bring to a boil. Cover, place in the oven, and braise until the meat is just fork tender, about 1 hour 45 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven and add the carrots and radish, making sure the vegetables are mostly submerged in the braising liquid. Return to the oven uncovered and continue to braise until the meat is very tender and the vegetables are knife tender, about 45 minutes more.

Pull beef into serving pieces and serve in soup bowls with steamed rice.

  • Kimchi Soft Tofu Stew (Soondubu Jjigae) Recipe
    By Christine Gallery

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, medium dice
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons Korean chile paste
  • 1 medium zucchini, medium dice
  • 1 cup kimchi, chopped
  • 2 cups low-sodium beef or chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 (14- to 16-ounce) package silken or soft tofu, drained
  • 3 large eggs (optional)
  • 2 medium scallions, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • Steamed rice, for serving


INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan with a tightfitting lid over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chile paste, stir to combine, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the zucchini, season with salt, and stir to combine. Add the kimchi and cook, stirring occasionally, until simmering, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Taste and season with salt as needed.
  3. Using a large serving spoon, add the tofu by very large spoonfuls, taking care not to break up the tofu into little bits.Gently press down on the tofu with the back of the spoon so that the broth is mostly covering it. Simmer until the tofu is heated through and the flavors have melded, about 3 minutes.
  4. Crack the eggs, if using, into the simmering mixture.Cover and simmer until the whites are set, about 2 minutes. Divide the stew and eggs among 3 bowls, being careful not to break up the tofu or the egg yolks. Garnish with the scallions and serve immediately with rice on the side.
 
 
It's been raining and I've been traveling.....I've neglected my blogging duties.  So here's a GIANT PICTURE OF PIE to make up for it.
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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
6 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
1 cup chopped fresh strawberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup instant tapioca (or 1/4 cup cornstarch)
pinch salt
dough for a 2-crust pie
Extra sugar for garnish

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a large bowl, toss together rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, tapioca and salt.  Let stand 15 minutes.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness.  Fold into quarters, center point of dough in center of 9-inch deep dish pie pan, unfold and ease to fit.  Set aside.
  3. Roll remaining dough to 1/8-inch thickness.  Fold into quarters and slash 3 (1-inch) vents into the folded pastry.  
  4. Spoon filling into crust and unfold dough on top, centering vents.  Leave a half-inch of dough overhanging pie pan and trim excess dough.  Turn under overhang and pinch to crimp.  Sprinkle top generously with sugar.
  5. Bake about 90 minutes or until juices are bubbling through vents.  Place a sheet of foil on rack under pie to catch drips.  If edges get too dark cover them with strips of foil.   Let cool for 2 hours before serving.

Makes 8 servings


By the way....don't bother soaking those black beans.  The cook up creamy and nice straight out of the bag.
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A poached egg on top of a salad of mixed greens, broccoli, tuna, steamed potatoes and blue cheese.
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Black Bean Enchiladas

 
 
I got the first wonderful box of garden goodies from Riverbend Farm last week.....and promptly left town before I could write about them.  That means that by dinnertime tomorrow you'll have TWO WEEKS worth of CSA blog posts in one.  Lucky you!

Meanwhile...I thought I'd recap my adventures in California.  One of my consulting clients is Peet's Coffee & Tea. I love them.  I love that this job takes me to the San Francisco area every so often.  I love their commitment to serving the highest quality food possible.  It's my job to help them figure out how to do that.  It's also a lot of hard work that fills every minute of my time in California....until now.

A Wine Country Cabin Retreat

After we finished our Very Important Meeting for Peet's, I headed up to wine country to learn about the amazing connection Minnesota has to the wine biz in Napa.  Marcus Hanson, my favorite sommelier, first told me about this. He made appointments for me with four wineries--from hidden gems to  showy bling.  This was going to be fun.  My excuse?  Crafting a wine list for the Minnesota Governor's Residence.  We are throwing a gala in September to raise money for the historic preservation of the home.  

I stayed in a little cabin in a vineyard near Petaluma.  To say it was private was a huge understatement.

A Taste of Charles Krug

The drive into the Napa Valley is twisty and scenic with more than a few breathtaking views.  I'd be in blinding sun then suddenly flipping up my sunglasses to see in the gloom of overhanging trees.  My first stop with at the Charles Krug Estate Vineyard, Napa Valley's Oldest Winery.  The hosts greeted me by name and seated me at a tall private table.  Annie poured and chatted and helped me get the most out of my tasting.  On this trip I wanted to soak up every bit of information I could from these so much more skilled with wine than I.    The Mondavi family, owners of Krug, left Italy and first settled in Virginia, Minnesota.  After some made the move to California they continued to send wine grapes back to Minnesota to made into wine for the Mondavi-owned saloon in the Iron Range.   I was treated to taste my way through the family reserves and limited release wines---which was great.  But the best thing was having Annie at my elbow helping me to pull apart the flavors and understand why one bottle deserved a hundred dollar price tag while another didn't.    My favorites?   2013 Limited Release  Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($35) and the 2010 X Clones Cabernet Sauvingon ($100).  We tried the 2010 Cold Springs Cabernet Sauvingnon--Howell Mountain ($125), but it was a bit immature--it would be fun to taste it in a few years.

After we tasted some, I was invited to get up--bring my glass with me and walk around the grounds.  We went through the vegetable garden they keep with the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.  Wow, it was fun to see what and how they grow stuff.  It seems all seasons happen at once.  
On the way to my next appointment, I tried to find a bite to eat.  I stopped at a farm stand hoping for snack, but came away with some gorgeous dried beans, some garlic and nice new friend instead.  In and Out burger saved my day, Animal Style.  

Spell....

Next I drove to a simple warehouse that contained 40 wine labels under one roof.  This is the home of  Spell Wines.  These small labels bring in their own grapes and their winemaker crafts each of their unique wines  sharing equipment as well as space.  Here I met Andrew Berge, the winemaker for Spell Estate Wines.  He is a young food process engineer from Minnesota with a passion for wine and the California lifestyle.  He walked me through the clean cool spaces where other winemakers were tending to their businesses.

Andrew uses a classes basket press for his red wines and a gentler membrane press for whites.  He started pulling samples from barrels for us.  I learned to spit into a drain on the floor.  My aim is not as good as Andrew's.    We tasted a chardonnay that was in its adolescence--and then one nearly mature enough to bottle.  Vey educational.  We tasted our way through bottles and barrels.  The rose was stellar, a vin gris of pinot noir.  The Pinot Noirs were educational to taste side by side.  ...so many different flavors from one variety of grape...

Risking my Life for Oysters at Tomales Bay...

I drove along the winding coastal highway to pick up some oysters for my dinner back at the cabin.  It was white knuckle driving for this midwestern girl.  Absolutely  breathtaking drives through the mountains and along a river through a canyon then up and along the ridges.  I stopped to catch my breath and let the patient cars behind me pass and snapped a few photos.  The sweet peas and fennel were in full bloom.  I rubbed the fennel leaves between my fingers.  It's oiler and more strongly licorice scented than it's garden cousin.  I'd love to make a grill rack out of those heavy stems to perfume a slab of salmon on the grill.  

I climbed back in and braved the road again.  It swooped down to the shore line where little cottages clung like barnacles to the rocks.  I couple of roadside seafood joints sorely tempted me to stop.   Hand lettered signs offering fresh oysters and crab caught my eye.  A couple were sitting at a tall table with a beer and an iced tray of oysters in front of them.   The sun was getting low and I didn't want to miss the views or the turns on my way back so I kept on.  I got to the Tomales Bay Oyster Co. just in time to pick up 2 dozen oysters and a wee bottle of their "oyster elixir"  as well as a nifty new knife.  

Back at the cabin, I started a fire and opened a cold bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from our friend Mr. Coppola.  While the fire burned down to coals, I steadied an oyster on the deck rail and teased my knife blade into the side of the oyster.  One the tip was in far enough I gave  a hard twist of the blade and then scraped along the flat top shell.  I pulled off the top and started a stack of empties off to the left--a quick slice to free the bottom and a quick drizzle of sauce and dinner was served.  I was sloppy and chipped away at a few of the shells, dropping shards into the flesh that I spat onto the ground.  With briny juices dribbling down the deck and flaky shell bits dropping around me, I was happy to be outside.  I  opened a dozen of the briny beauties, one by one.  I had purchased mediums--wow, these were HUGE.  Their elixir turned out to be a perfectly charming mignonette sauce.  A shot of Tabasco and lemon on a few was lovely, too.    I munched a few radishes,  fresh strawberries and chunks of bread to make it a meal.  But then the coals were ready.

I dropped a grill rack over the coals and arranged a few of my oysters on it, deep shell down.  After about 5 minutes, juices were sputtering into the fire.  I pulled them off.  the top shell easily lifted off.  The juices bubbled but the oyster was still silky and raw.  The mignonette was superb on these--the oyster had picked up a faint smokiness from the fire.  I think melted butter and few herbs would have been nice, too.  But, alas, I was butterless.   I added more oysters to the grill and feasted.  A few were fully poached by the time I pulled them, but no less delicious.  The sun had fully set and it was time for bed.

O'Shaughnessy, Truly a Hidden Gem

The next morning, I was off through the mountains, across the floor of the Napa Valley and up the other side to the top of Howell Mountain to visit the O'Shaunessy Estate Winery.  The drive was a gorgeous and frightening as you might imagine (no, driving is not my forte--I'm a much better passenger).   I arrived and some how managed to come in through the back door into the kitchen, rather fitting, I thought.  Blanca, a lovely young woman, was my host.  She knew it all and had hands on experience in all aspects of the business--from tying vines to pouring.  The Minnesota girl, Betty, who started this winery, did so with exquisite taste.  Every surface, door knob, and planting was beautiful to behold.  Around every corner were dining nooks.  A grand dining table was set in the cozy wine library just off to the side in the caves.

These wines were first made outdoors.  The big tanks are now in a building, but that room has fresh mountain air circulating through.  Music is playing everywhere, even in the caves.  The wines are very special, with prices to match.  At my table these would be occasion wines.  The 2012 Oakville Chardonnay was delightfully bright and crisp--following--or perhaps leading--the trend of very lightly oaked wines in the white burgundy style.  I love them.  the Cabernet Sauvingons are stellar and complex--real gems.

Making New Friends in Calistoga...Tasting with Heller

I had a nice little lunch at Calistoga Kitchen.  I sat in the shade and enjoyed a sliced grilled steak draped over bibb or gem lettuces dressed with a tomato vinaigrette.  The chef came out to chat because I was the first to order this dish.  I told him I was on my way to Heller Vineyard and he said how nice the owner is and how he serves their very good wine there.  Things were going from good to better.
In my usual fashion, after driving up the mountain, I poked around and went in the wrong door eventually running into the winemaker...who helped me find my way to the owner, Steve.  Steve was a top level food scientist at General Mills.  I spent many years figuring out how to help consumers use the products he made.  It also turns out his wife, Joan, does search for BakeOff.  I was tolerance coordinator for BakeOff.  We know scads of the same people.  It is such a small world.  We scrambled all over looking at his vegetable garden and fruit trees.  His renovated guest house is so charming.  It's beautiful.  

He showed me his wine making facility....the crushing floor, the barrels, and all...then we went into his small lab.  This is where it became truly apparent Steve is still a chemist at heart.  I particularly like the glassware hanging on the drying pegs next to a couple of wine glasses.  

Then we began tasting.  I had just come from tasting hundred dollar and plus bottles of cabernet sauvignon.   I do not have a sophisticated or terribly discerning palate for wines but my sensory skills for food tasting are pretty sharp.  I found the Heller Family Vineyards cabs to be just as delicious and complex with a much more affordable price tag.   A mixed case of their wines is headed to my door.
After we finished the business of shipping, etc. Steve invited me up to see the view from his house perched above it all.  I gushed like a teenager.  The house was gorgeous and the view breathtaking.  The whole life he and Joan have made for themselves there is beyond ideal.  I've seen beautiful homes in beautiful settings before, but the Hellers have taken such care in every detail the place fairly drips with it.  There, I'm gushing again.  Take a look at the pictures and you'll see what I mean.  Wow.

Back to the Cabin and Home Again...

 
 
It won't be long before my summer blog for Riverbend Organic Farm will resume.  I've lots of great ideas and look forward to sharing them, along with lots of great photos.  If you'd like to purchase a share a few still remain.  You can find out all about it here:http://rbfcsa.com/?page_id=14

Browse through last summer's Cooking Out of the Box posts for lots of great food ideas you can use all year long.
 
 

Petite Filet Mignon Appetizers

Silky bites of beef tenderloin perfumed with garlic and spiked with mustard are wrapped in smokey bacon (or not) and quick roasted to make these satisfying bites.  It's two bites of luxury to share at a party or for a cozy movie night for two.

I'm a lucky girl with a house full of the best 100% grass fed Minnesota grown beef.  I'm working on a project for Thousand Hills Cattle Company and thought this would be a great use of their tenderloin tails.  You can get their beef at the best restaurants, co-op meat counters, butcher shops, and grocery stores in the Twin Cities area.  

1 pound of beef tenderloin gives you about 16 lovely little bites of bacon wrapped goodness.  You can buy a steak and cut it up, but an even better idea is to ask the butcher for the tenderloin tails.  These are cut from the small end of the tenderloin that is too narrow to be cut into steaks.  They are usually less expensive and just as luscious.  The silky tender beef has a delicate flavor that deserves an understated enhancement-- no heavy marinades here, just a quick toss with some steak friendly flavors, then it's all skewered up into  neat two-bite packages.
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The best bacon around is from Rieder's Meat in Delano, MN.
The bacon wrap idea,  taken from those luxe bacon-wrapped tenderloins we indulge in on occasion, works out well----but I must say, the unwrapped bites roasted off to the side were perhaps even better.  My smokey artisan bacon may have been a bit intense for this mild cut.  Next time, I might ask my butcher to slice it a bit thinner....or not.....is too much bacon a bad thing?
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Because I hate to clean up, I lined my pan with foil.  Some communities are taking used foil to recycle,  check it out before you chuck it.

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Both bacon-cloaked and the naked little cuties were fantastic dipped into steak sauce, BBQ sauce, and a warm blue cheese sauce adapted from an Ina Garten recipe I'm fond of.

One more great party plus, you can make these a day ahead of time.  Just cover and chill until you're ready to roast them up.  Just remember to let them come to room temperature before they go in the oven.

Are you feeling festive?  Do you want a bit of luxury at home  on New Year's Eve that won't break the bank?   Here it is.

PETITE FILET MIGNON APPETIZERS
Enjoy these luxe little bites on their own or add a dipping sauce.  Try your favorite steak sauce, BBQ, or my favorite Warm Blue Cheese Sauce.  

1 lb. Thousand Hills Cattle Co. 100% grass fed beef tenderloin, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 clove garlic, pressed or very finely chopped
1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
freshly ground pepper & a tiny pinch of salt (the mustard and bacon are salty)
8 slices bacon, cut in half
16 toothpicks or short bamboo skewers
sliced green onions or herbs for garnish
  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Place a wire rack--like a cooling rack, on foil.  Heat oven to 500 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, use your hands to toss beef with garlic, mustard, pepper and salt.  
  3. Meanwhile, arrange bacon in a single layer on a microwave safe plate.  Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes or until cooked but not crisp.  
  4. Wrap each beef cube in bacon, securing with a pick.  Arrange on prepared rack.  
  5. Roast 12 to 15 minutes or until bacon is browned in spots.  Let rest a few minutes before serving.
Tips:
  • Even easier, skip the bacon.  If you do, drizzle the beef with a bit of olive oil and reduce the roasting time to 10 minutes.
  • Try to keep all of the beef pieces the same size so they cook evenly.  if you end up with some thinner strips, fold them in half before skewering.
  • The rack on the baking sheet allows the hot air to circulate around the beef browning all sides at once.  If you don't have a rack, turn the cubes half way through baking.
  • Season and skewer cubes up to a day ahead of time, cover and chill until needed.  Be sure to allow the chilled beef to come to stand at room temp for about 15 minutes before roasting.
Warm Blue Cheese  Sauce
This is fantastic spooned over steak, rare roast beef or as a fondue for bites of beef filet.
2 cups heavy cream
2 ounces crumbled blue cheese  (smoked blue cheese is particularly good here)
2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • In a medium saucepan bring the heavy cream to a full rolling boil.
  • Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes or until reduced to a thickened sauce.  Remove from heat.
  • Stir in remaining ingredients until smooth.  Serve warm.
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By the way....if you've got one of these around the house, swap out the top with a plain white oven safe bowl to keep your dipping sauce warm.  Cute, right?








Happy New Year!

 
 
CARROTS
BUTTERNUT SQUASH
DELICATA SQUASH
ACORN SQUASH
POTATOES
CABBAGE
RED AND YELLOW ONIONS
WINTER RADISH

By now you know how to cook everything and, perhaps more importantly, what your family likes best.  With the season at an end I thought I'd take a moment to talk about storage of  all of these delights.   Of course, If you're like Greg and have a root cellar with bins of moist sand in which to store your bounty, you don't need my help.  I'll be over in February for some carrots, thank you.
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Kimchi and kraut are two classic ways to preserve vegetables by fermenting them.  I've talked about this in previous posts and today I decided my crocks of bubbly goodness were just sour enough.  I don't heat treat my fermented foods so the good bacteria can remain active.  Today I scooped the kraut and chi into large canning jars, made sure the top was covered by brine and capped them with plastic canning jar lids. The fermentation process is slowed way down by the cold, but it hasn't completely stopped. I loosen the lids just a bit to allow gasses to escape.  These jars are now resting comfortably in my spare fridge in the basement.

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Carrots will keep a long time.  I've had them keep for over a year--though I wouldn't call this typical.  Pack them up in a plastic bag and leave the zip closure open by about 2 inches to allow respiration.  If your root veggies can't breathe they tend to die and rot.  Yuck.  Winter radishes keep this way, too.



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Potatoes and onions should be stored in the dark at a cool room temperature.  Excess moisture is the enemy, so I keep a folded newspaper in the bottom of a mesh bin for these.  I tuck them in my pantry.  If I have more than 5 lbs or so, I'll put them in the basement where it is even cooler.  DO NOT REFRIGERATE!  The potatoes get a weird sticky sweetness and the onions think it's time to grow and sprout then rot.  

I do believe the worst smell in the world is a rotten potato.  Rotate your stock every so often to check for bad taters and onions.  If they are dry and undamaged they will keep a long time---but eat them up any way.

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I pile the squash in a cardboard box and store in the basement at room temperature.  Eat up those delicata squash, they don't keep as long as the others.

If a whole butternut squash is too much for your family to eat in one meal, freeze the extra.  I bake a whole squash, then scoop out the tender flesh with a small ice cream scoop.  Drop the scoops of squash onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, foil, plastic or waxed paper.  Freeze until solid, then drop them into a large zip bag to store in the freezer.  It's nice to have on hand.  

In the winter you can heat up a cup of squash in the microwave, add a bit of butter, salt and dry red chilies for a tasty side dish.  Of course butter and brown sugar or maple syrup isn't bad either.  It's also nice to add a blob to plain mashed potatoes---they still taste mostly like potatoes, but have a rich golden buttery color with a hint of the good squash flavor.  


Well it's been fun.  Keep stopping by--I'll still be blogging--just on my kitchen journal page.  See you soon!

 
 
BEETS
Bake or boil the roots until tender, then the skins will just slip off. Just to keep things interesting, I like to peel beets while raw, slice and pan fry in butter with onions.  They get sweet and nice.  Don't forget the greens are great when cooked.  Either simmer in a soup or saute in a bit of olive oil.

CELERY
This is what real celery looks like.  I Treat it like an herb, using a little bit chopped in chicken salad or added to stuffings.  It's handy to chop a bunch and saute briefly in butter then drop spoonfuls on waxed paper lined baking sheets and freeze.  When the dollops are frozen just drop them into a zip closure bag to use in the winter.
Cream of Celery Soup**

RED MUSTARD GREENS
Great in salads or on a roast beef sandwich.*

ROMANESCO
A gorgeous addition to a veggie tray with dip.  Cooks up like the broccoli cousin it is.  Give it a quick salt water soak to dislodge loopers.

RADISHES
These are the kind with the sweet edible tops.  I love radish butter.  Grate the radish, chop the tops and stir into softened butter.  Make into sandwiches with plenty of salt and pepper.

CARROTS
Invest in a vegetable brush and never peel a carrot or potato again.  It's easier than peeling and retains loads of vitamins and fiber.  The red carrots are pretty all the way through to their canary yellow centers.*

TOMATOES
Savor the last of the season.
Tabbouleh with Kale*

SWEET PEPPERS
French Bread Pizza*

POTATOES
cute little pink-skinned yellow potatoes

SQUASH
I think it's a delicata--sweet rich flesh.

EGGPLANT
It's been a stellar year for eggplant.

*photo or recipe
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Once upon a time people ate cream of celery soup because it tastes good, not because it's condensed state glues together  chicken and noodles.  If you make this soup you'll learn:
  •  some good basic cooking skills.  
  •  how good plain old celery can taste.
  • you don't need a white sauce thickened with flour and butter to make a creamy soup or sauce.  Well cooked root vegetables pureed up smooth and thick will do the job.  
  • leftover cooked vegetables can be made into a "cream of" soup with the addition of a cooked potato, broth and milk.  (think carrot, broccoli, asparagus, spinach...)
  • carrots add a buttery golden color and sweetness to otherwise pale creamy soups.


I have to say we are not huge celery lovers in this house.  I've had too much lousy "Chinese" take out loaded with cheap celery.  When Mark was little I dutifully packed a healthful snack for him every day.  It was often a celery log stuffed with peanut butter and topped with raisin ants.  He later confessed he ate the raisins, licked out the peanut butter and chucked the celery.  BUT we love this soup and gobbled it up for lunch today.  Michael finished it off at dinner.  

This is the kind of soup I like to serve at dinner parties.  After my guests hang around a bit I serve mugs of a light soup and start to encourage them to have a seat at the table. 

BTW: I know we are in the middle of Minnesota, but I would dearly love to drop a barely poached oyster on top of this soup.

CREAM OF CELERY SOUP
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup chopped onion, about 1 small
1 cup chopped carrot, about 2 medium
2 cups chopped leafy celery
1 cup chopped potato, about 1 medium
1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable) or water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 cup milk
  • In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat.  Cook the onions, carrots and celery in the butter for about 2 to 3 minutes or until celery leaves are wilted and vegetables are beginning to soften.  Don't allow them to brown.
  • Add potatoes, broth, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are very tender.  
  • Add milk and blend vegetables with an immersion stick blender, jar blender or food processor.  If you want the soup silky smooth, pour the soup through a wire mesh sieve, pressing on solids with a wooden spoon.  Taste and add more salt or pepper as needed.  Reheat if desired and serve garnished with a swirl of heavy cream.

Makes 4 cups

Tip: This soup won't freeze well.  Potatoes get weird in the freezer.  But it reheats beautifully and actually tastes better the second day.
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I love tabbouleh.  Substitute chopped raw kale for the parsley in your favorite recipe for a little added nutrition.

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MINI FRENCH BREAD PIZZAS
  • Cook a crumbled half pound of your favorite Italian sausage with a chopped sweet pepper, two tomatoes and a small onion.  A cup of chopped eggplant would be nice too. Cook about 10 to 15 minutes until the sausage is cooked, the veggies are tender and the tomatoes are saucy.   Taste and season if needed. 
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.  Arrange thick slices of crusty bread on the sheet and spoon the meat mixture over all.  Top with shredded mozzarella, provolone, asiago and/or parmesan cheeses.  (the spilled cheese that browns on the parchment is my favorite part.)
  • Broil about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted, bubbly and as brown as you'd like.