It’s getting down to the wire….this is the second-to-last CSA wrap-up post and as I promised earlier, there are NO raw tomatoes, only some beautiful Fall dishes that required a hot stove and a hotter oven.
Here are the goods that I received this week from our friends at Bialas Farms:
- Butternut Squash
- Baby Bell Peppers
- Sweet Corn
- Green Beans
- White Lady Turnips
The first thing I did when I got back from the market is send the baby heirlooms into the oven for a nice long blast of scorching hot air. Which blistered them and added some extra sweetness….
One of my Mom’s favorite pasta dishes uses a raw tomato, brie, basil and garlic sauce – you simply marinate the ingredients for half an hour before tossing the whole thing with just-cooked noodles.
In my effort to give this dish a Fall twist, I used the roasted tomatoes as the foundation, whose heat softened the garlic’s usual bite. Both pasta dishes are great, but this one seems more appropriate for crisper temps…
Normally I don’t use spaghetti in the dish – penne and other tubular pasta shapes work well to catch the sauce, but beggars can’t be choosers. My pantry at the lake is looking pretty thin as we continue to work our way through much of our Summer stash.
And what could be more enjoyable than cooking dinner with a glass of wine, and a friendly helper. Who isn’t really helping at all but keeping you company with endless chatter about school friends and planned Lego constructions…She’s also good at sneaking bites of those crisp and flavorful Bialas Farms green beans that have been blanched for only a minute or two to retain both flavor and crunch.
To make the roasted tomato and brie pasta:
Halve a quart or more of baby heirloom or cherry tomatoes and place, cut side down along with a few sprigs of thyme, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with s&p and roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or more, depending on the size of your tomatoes. The tomatoes should be slightly charred and soft, but not falling apart when you remove them from the oven.
Set aside to cool slightly while you prep the remaining ingredients. Take a wheel of Brie (approx. 8 oz) and trim any hard white parts (although much of the white edge can remain). Place in a large bowl and grate 1 large clove of garlic into the bowl. Toss the brie and garlic with a few big glugs of olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Scatter some cleaned and torn basil leaves (about a handful), and when the tomatoes have cooled slightly, toss in the tomatoes.
Next bring a large pot of salted water to boil and then cook your pasta until al dente – any shape will work, but tubular/shell shapes work best. Toss the pasta with the sauce, and serve with a grating of parmesan cheese.
If you’ve been reading this blog you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of chili. Vegetarian, vegan, full ‘o beef, you name it and I’ve made it. I had a great time testing out Tim Love’s authentic Texas chili last year, and while this version doesn’t have the same range of spices, it takes a quarter of the time to prepare. The ingredients are simple, the kind of vegetables and spices that you’ll likely have on hand, making it a 30-minute meal that will impress even the most ardent of chili fans.
Like the posole that I made last week, I reached for my seemingly endless stash of CSA peppers – poblano, jalapeno, and the slender and mild cubanelles. The chili gets a hit of flavor some bubbles too – in this case a hoppy IPA which I always keep stocked in my fridge. The best part of any soup or stew, in my most humble opinion, is the garnish. A squeeze of lime, sour cream, cilantro, and shredded Monterrey Jack (“Modern Jack” to my kids, in their mind, a perfect accompaniment to chips and “Mock ‘n Mole”.)
To make the beef, bean and 3-pepper chili:
In a medium sautee pan, brown 1 lb of ground beef in vegetable oil until the pink is no longer visible. Remove the beef and drain most of the fat, leaving about a tablespoon or two. While the beef is cooking, dice a medium onion (to make about a cup) and a few types of peppers – I used a mix of poblano, jalapeno and cubanelle – altogether they formed about 2 cups.
Once the beef has been removed from the pot, add the vegetables and sweat until translucent (approx. 10 minutes). Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and a mix of spices – I used a half Tablespoon each of cumin, coriander, oregano, and chili powder. Cook the spices for a minute before adding back the beef, along with 1 14-oz can of tomato sauce, and 1 28-can of whole peeled tomatoes. Add a half bottle of beer (anything will work as long as it’s not too dark), and bring the whole chili to a simmer.
Simmer the chili for approximately 15 minutes (or longer) to blend the flavors, and when done, crush the tomatoes lightly with a potato masher to make sure that you don’t end up with large tomato pieces. Add a can of drained and rinsed black beans, and cook for 5 minutes more to heat through. Serve with any garnish you like or have on hand – sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, cilantro, all work well.
Now the next dish may not appear at first blush to look like your standard CSA dish (where are the vegetables?) but if you peek under all of that oozy cream and cheese sauce, you’ll find a measly effort to work through my pile of cipollini onions. Typically I don’t include onions in my macaroni and cheese – I tend to use more of a straight-up roux + cheese sauce, but since I’m making an effort to use my weekly vegetables, in went the cipollini onions, finely-diced of course.
Another question you may ask is “why is there a lobster tail in this image?” The answer is not as straightforward. I made the macaroni and cheese for the kids last weekend, with Lauren yanking at my sleeve and begging (groveling?) for a homemade version, not that boxed stuff. Which, with full disclosure, I do stock in my pantry for emergencies only (e.g. a potential Sunday morning hangover causes me to trip over the previous evening’s clothes, knocking me unconscious and forcing Rodney into lunch duties). So I made mac ‘n cheese. And apparently the stinky Gruyere that I added at the last minute isn’t a kid favorite. As such, I was left with a giant crusty pan of the stuff. I hate, hate, hate to throw food away, so rather than pitch the extra, I dutifully whittled away at the dish each day, watching the remaining portion get smaller and smaller.
By day 3 I’d had enough mac ‘n cheese, heavenly Gruyere notwithstanding, so I had to kick up the flavor profile to make it palatable enough to finish off once and for all. I was at Whole Foods that morning and spotted some lobster tail and tossed it into my cart. If I can give you one piece of advice about leftovers, it would be to make it into a different meal: all of a sudden it’s new again. Lobster tail, tarragon, 3-day old macaroni and cheese, done, spiked, dish scrubbed, mission accomplished.
To make the macaroni and cheese with lobster and tarragon:
I used a recipe similar to the one written on Martha Stewart’s website—if you’re making with lobster and tarragon, make sure to mix in the lobster and tarragon before adding your breadcrumb topping and baking.
To poach the lobster tails, bring a medium pot of water to a boil, and add in your lobster tails, cooking, covered, for 8 minutes. When the lobster is done, remove, let cool, and then using a pair of poultry shears, cut open the tail to release the meat. Chop the meat and set aside, while you chop some tarragon sprigs (you’ll need about a tablespoon). Stir into your macaroni and cheese, top with breadcrumbs, and bake at 350 degrees, uncovered for 30 minutes or until the top is golden.
It wouldn’t be a Fall week without another attempt at some kind of apple dish. I still had a ton of Granny Smith apples left over from our trip to Heaven Hill Farm and was searching for a recipe.
I’ve been on a quest to learn more about Gluten Free cooking since I have a sneaking suspicion that wheat has been exacerbating Lauren’s eczema. In addition to her skin issues, she’s been complaining recently of stomach aches, particularly after eating what she refers to as “party foods” – pizza, cupcakes, etc. Gluten has become a popular villain, and while I don’t mean to jump on the bandwagon, I thought that it might make sense to dip my toe into the world of Gluten-Free baking. Our appointment with the allergist is in a few weeks, so until then, I’ll continue to adjust to the thought of de-glutenizing should that not-so-welcome event happen in the not-so-distant future.
One book that piqued my interest is called “Flourless” and is written by Nicole Spiridakis, author of the blog Cucina Nicolina.
Nicole’s approach is somewhat unusual in that she likes to create recipes that are naturally flourless, rather than using the typical gums and other hard-to-find ingredients that mimic the action of wheat flour.
I found an easy to prep apple tea cake in her book, which is baked with a cornmeal base, and topped with a apples caramelized with a sticky, spiced maple syrup glaze. Nicole uses cardamom for the glaze, and with my cardamom up at the lake, I ended up using Chinese Five Spice powder, which worked perfectly as well.
I found the recipe for the apple tea cake excerpted on Bakepedia’s website, so if you’d like to check out the directions to bake this at home, you can find it published with permission right here.
One of my constantly-held kitchen practices is to prep what I can when I get home from the farmer’s market. Like I did last week, I immediately sliced the squash into rings, and then roasted them at 350 degrees for about an hour until tender (flipping halfway through).
With my greens washed and stored, there’s almost no easier weeknight meal than a satisfying salad that pulls together some of my prepped ingredients with something hot off the stove.
This week it was an Asian-inspired salad that paired the squash segments with thinly-sliced fennel, chopped peppers from my CSA box, and some grilled rib-eye steak that had been tossed in Sweet Heat Gourmet’s Asian bulgogi barbecue sauce. If I say this took 10 minutes to prepare, I may be exaggerating – it was probably less. While the steak cooks and rests (just grill, seasoned with a little salt and pepper), you can prep the whole salad- chop your vegetables, mix with the squash and lettuce, and toss the whole thing with some good olive oil and vinegar + s&p. When you’re ready to serve, slice your steak, drizzle with a few tablespoons of Sweet Heat’s (or other brand) Asian barbecue sauce, and serve on top of the salad with a scattering of sesame seeds. Simple weeknight food at its best.
And while we’re on the topic of simple food, let’s talk about this creamy leek and apple soup. I had homemade stock in the fridge. I had a bunch of bagged leeks that had been cleaned and sliced. Without a lunch plan in mind, I threw the leeks and a peeled and chopped apple together with the stock and let it simmer for 20 minutes while I caught up on emails. When everything was nice and soft, I pureed, added a little cream, and seasoned it, topping the whole thing with a few simple garnishes. Again, an effort that took 10 minutes to prep, but tasted like I’d spent the whole morning cooking.
The reason? Stocking ingredients in your fridge and pantry, such as a good, rich, homemade chicken stock. Yes, you can use the jarred variety (I keep Better than Bouillon on hand for those few times when I’ve eaten through all of our homemade broth) but there really isn’t a comparison. Homemade stock gels and solidifies slightly – the collagen in the broth can’t be found in pre-made boxes and jars and without it, food tastes a little more flat. And the method is simple – anytime you make a meal that has bones (roast chicken, bone-in ham, etc.) just pop the bones on the slow cooker with a few vegetables and water to cover (carrots, celery, onion and woody herbs) + a few black peppercorns and let it cook overnight on low. Use within a week or freeze for later use.
The other suggestion for making a great but simple meal? Use a spice that you haven’t used in a while. For me it was Garam Masala, which I found at the back of my cupboard when I was looking for the cardamom used in the apple cake above. When I’m making a basic dish, I love to wake up my taste buds with flavors that I don’t typically use. It makes all the difference, so use those spices, don’t let them wallow away in silence, unused and unloved. There are no wrong approaches, only creative uses that you may or may not like; if you’re hesitant to try something new, pull a bit of the soup out of the pot, stir in some spices and test whether you like it before mixing the seasoning into the larger pot.
To make the creamy leek and apple soup with Garam Masala:
Bring to a boil the following: 1 quart chicken stock, 2 cleaned and sliced leeks, and 1 peeled and cubed apple. The stock will barely cover the vegetable/fruit mixture. When the mixture boils, turn it down to a simmer until the veg/fruit are soft (approx 20 mins). Puree the soup with an immersion blender, and then add 1/4 cup of heavy cream and 1/2 Tablespoon of Garam Masala (or to taste); Puree again to blend, season to taste with with salt and pepper, and the serve with a touch more cream, pepitas that have been sautéed in a little olive oil with more salt and Garam Masala powder, and a few sprigs of cilantro for color.
So that’s a wrap folks. Next week will be the last CSA post for the season, so be sure to stay tuned….Have a great week!