Monday, June 29, 2009

Swiss Chard Gratin

I did not faithfully use the Swiss Chard last year when we got it in our share. One time, they totally wilted in the fridge (wrap them up loosely in plastic wrap). I can't remember if I made anything food with them any other time, I think I may have avoided taking them cause I just didn't know what the heck to do with them!

This week I was determined to make something I would enjoy, and not waste my Swiss Chard. Looking through my cookbooks, I saw a recipe for Swiss Chard Rib Gratin, in Starting with Ingredients by Aliza Green. A gratin sounded good, it is hard to imagine anything covered in a creamy, cheesy sauce not being yummy.
I altered the recipe to suit my tastes, and included the chopped up leaves as well, to add color and not be wasteful. I added onion and a little potato as well. It was so very very good! I have made other gratins before, with varying vegetables. This is my favorite one so far.
4-5 leaves Swiss chard leaves, ribs separated
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
1-2 onions
extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt, freshly ground pepper
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar and parmesan cheese

Chop up the chard stems
Aren't they colorful?
Here is what one looks like before you chop it up.

Boil them with the potatoes in a small pot, not too long. Until they start to become tender. Set aside.

Then, heat a pan with a little olive oil and saute the chopped chard leaves and onion, just for about 5 minutes. Set aside, you can put it in the same bowl as the rib mixture.
In a saucepan melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
Preheat the oven to 350.
Meanwhile, combine the milk with the coriander, nutmeg, thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper and scald. While the hot milk mixture into the roux (the butter and flour paste). Bring slowly to a boil, stirring frequently and making sure not to burn the bottom of the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in most of the cheese.
In a shallow baking dish, spread some of the sauce to cover the bottom of the dish. Spread a layer of veggies,

Here are the first layers of sauce and veggies.
And close up.
Then keep adding layers: sauce, veggies, sauce, and finish with the remaining cheese. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until browned and bubbling. Remove the dish from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. The cooling is important, it will be very runny if you try to dish it up right from the oven!

This was seriously delicious. I only have this slightly messy picture of the finished product, because I gobbled most of mine

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pesto Potato Salad

I am very proud of myself for making two brand new recipes I have never tried yesterday and today! Yesterday it was the veggie pancakes, today a new type of potato salad!
I have to admit I have made a dish that is somewhere along the lines of this potato salad last summer. It is an Italian pasta dish with potatoes, green beans and a pesto sauce. But this potato salad is my own little creation.

It is basically potatoes, home-made pesto, green onions, and a little lemon juice. It tasted good now, I hope it holds up, as I am taking it in my insulated lunch bag to the beach for lunch tomorrow!
2 lbs new potatoes
2 green onions
freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 sprigs basil
1 large sprig parsley
1 snippet of tarragon (If these herb measurements sound iffy to you, take a look at the photo! Honestly, just grab what herbs you have around)
2 garlic scapes, chopped (or 1 small clove of garlic)
1/2 cup pine nuts1 pinch red chili flakes (optional)
1/2 cup grated parmiggiano reggiano
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
extra virgin olive oil
white wine vinegar

Start a large pot of water boiling for the potatoes.

My potatoes from the CSA!I cut them into fourths, then put them in the water when it was boiling.

Check the potatoes, drain them when they are tender enough to be pierced by a knife.

While the water is heating, make the pesto. First, toast the pine nuts in a small skillet on medium heat, shaking occasionally. Really watch these, I have burnt so many pine nuts . I used to put them in the toaster oven to toast them, but I find it is easier to forget them that way. They are too pricey to waste!
Anyway, it should only take about 5 minutes until they start to smell aromatic and lightly browned.
Let the pine nuts cool.

From left to right parsely, tarragon, basil. The basil and parsley are from the CSA.

Throw your herbs in a food processor with the cheese, garlic scapes, salt, pepper, and a bit of red pepper flakes, then the pine nuts.

Mix in the processor until combined. Then start to add some extra virgin olive oil in the little liquid holes in the lid of your processor. I have a confession...I NEVER measure olive oil for pesto. I just put it in until it is the consistency I like. For this potato salad, I wanted it a bit smoother. Then add in a squeeze of lemon juice. Again, no measurements again, you have to taste to see how much you would like. And in a traditional pesto there is no lemon, but I think it would be nice for the salad.

Then just throw the potatoes in a bowl, and while they are warm add some vinegar. They will soak it up right away, and add some zing.
Then mix in the pesto and the spring onions. I found the salad still needed something, so I added a few more squeezes of lemon juice, and it seemed to brighten it up.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Vegetable Pancakes with Yogurt Sauce

As part of my self challenge to blog about every recipe I cook with my CSA produce this year, I am sharing this recipe for vegetable pancakes, from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. One of my favorite cookbooks I own, I use it a lot.

We got a lot of great produce this week. Potatoes, Swiss chard, snow peas, lettuce, basil, green onion, cucumber....definitely a lot or great stuff! So I figured I better get cooking tonight if I'm going to use up all the great produce.

There are a lot of variations you can make for these pancakes. The book says you can also use parsnips,sweet potatoes, winter squash, turnips, beets, celery root, or cooked, squeezed chopped spinach or other greens
Vegetable Pancakes (adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe)
about 1 pound zucchini, yellow squash, and carrot (about 2 cups packed)
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup flour, more or less
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Half-and-half, as needed
2 tablespoons butter and/or olive oil, plus more for the pan (I used a combination on the griddle, and olive oil in the pancakes)

Here are the CSA vegetables I used, plus I decided to add in a little parsley (not pictured) Zucchini, spring onion, zephyr squash, and garlic scapes (the garlic scapes were used in the yogurt sauce)

Incidentally, here is my new kitchen island, purchased from Ikea to be my workspace. My counter is overtaken by coffee makers, other appliances, cooking oils, etc. It has storage space underneath, and hooks to hang lots of things on.

1. Preheat the oven or toaster to warm or 2275 degrees F. Grate the vegetables. I used my lovely new grater, it makes really nice thin strips.

All the veggies mixed together.

Mix the vegetables, onion, egg, and flour together. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. Then add just enough half-and-half so that the mixture drops easily from a large spoon. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Here is the batter, ready to go on the griddle.
2. Put a pat of butter or a spoonful of oil on a griddle over medium heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, drop in spoonfuls of the batter; use a fork to spread the vegetables into an even layer.
You have to work in batches, keep pancakes in oven until all are finished.Cook, turning once, until nicely browned on both sides, about 15 minutes.

Cookin up on the griddle.

Serve hot or at room temperature with yogurt sauce (recipe below)

Yogurt Sauce (adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe)
1 cup yogurt, whole milk
1 minced garlic scape
salt and freshly ground pepper
lemon juice
freshly chopped parsley and chives

1. Combine the yogurt with the garlic, a pinch of salt, pepper, lemon juice, and herbs. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
2. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Pasta with seasonal veggies

I made a pasta dish inspired by Pioneer Woman's recipe. I received a zucchini and zephyr squash from the CSA this week.

You know those huge, gi-normous zucchinis you can sometimes find? Well, I just read that actually regular sized zucchinis actually have a better flavor. The large ones are spongy and watery.

I chopped these up, and sauteed them in some olive oil. Oh, and meanwhile started a pot to boil water for the pasta.
Here are some of the other prepared ingredients- some really thin, local asparagus I found at John Herr's, red onion, and 3 garlic cloves put through the garlic press.

Next, I cooked some onion and garlic in olive oil and a little butter. I added in some dry white wine to the pan and scraped up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.

I added some lemon zest, lemon juice, halved grape tomatoes, and thin asparagus to the pan and cooked a few minutes.

I added my half and half, I might not do this again. PW adds some real cream to her dish, but I didn't have any so I added some half and half. It seemed to not add any creaminess to the dish, so next time I am just going to leave out the dairy or go all out and use the real deal-regular cream!

Also, I made sure to sufficiently salt and pepper the sauce.

I then dumped the sauce over my recently cooked pasta, and added a bunch of fresh herbs and mixed it up. I used basil, dill, parsley and chives. Then I topped each plate with some freshly grated Parmiggiano Reggiano.

I loved the wine and fresh herb flavor! A great vegetarian dish.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Broccoli Salad

I love broccoli salad.... once I finally tried it. It just sounds too weird. Broccoli with raisins, bacon and onion? I don't even like raisins that much. And the dressing ingredients also sound strange. Mayo, vinegar and sugar.

But somehow, when you put it all together, it is really tasty. I use much less sugar than the recipe calls for, and left out the peas. The grocery store I worked at made this from scratch everyday and they never had peas!

You can click the recipe below, but basically cut up some broccoli (from my CSA share!), red onion, throw it in a bowl. Add a handful of raisins. Cook some bacon that is cut in small pieces. Then mix up some mayo, add a little white vinegar and sugar to taste then dump over the broccoli mix. Tada!
Broccoli Salad recipe
To fulfill my CSA challenge, here are the other things I made with my farm produce from last week.
Arugula- Ate a small bowl or it with white wine vinegar, olive oil and local strawberries.
Spring onions and lettuces- Chopped up the bunch and added it to chicken salad. The salad had grilled boneless chicken thighs, chopped, toasted sunflower seeds, celery, and a dressing with mayo, dijon mustard, and vinegar. Served on top of lettuces and shredded spicy cheese.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

First CSA Challenge recipe: Tex-Mex Salad

I loved LOVED this salad! My favorite salads are the ones with all the goodies like chicken, high quality cheese, something crunchy. I especially love salads with a Tex-Mex theme.
So I created this recipe, using three different salad greens from our wonderful CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share. (To read more about my CSA self-challenge, click here.)
I wanted a BIG SALAD, just like Elaine on Seinfeld. So this recipe is for two main entree salads.

5 small corn tortillas, cut into strips
Corn oil for frying
1 chipotle pepper
2 tsp adobe sauce
1/2 cup whole milk plain yogurt
1/3 cup mayonnaise
juice of 1 lime
pinch of salt, ground pepper
1 shallot
1/2 up lightly packed cilantro

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
A variety of salad greens, about 4-5 cups
Shredded sharp, aged cheddar cheese
1/2 cup canned corn or Mexicorn

First, make the fried tortilla strips. Ever since I fried my own tortilla chips, I am addicted. I don't make them a lot, but they taste so much better than bagged chips!
First, heat up your corn oil in a small skillet to about 350 degrees. Drop your tortilla strips in in small batches, stirring then removing with a slotted spoon after they start to calm down and darken. It doesn't take long at all, just a minute or two so don't walk away from the stove! Place them on a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with salt before putting in the next batch.

These are the strips before they have "calmed down." They are excited and bubbly when you first put them in.

Continue until you fry all the strips.

Then, try not to eat all of them before the rest of the salad is done!

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 400 on broil. (I used the toaster oven, less heat in the kitchen to cook one little bitty chicken breast.)
Then, make the dressing. Combine all dressing ingredients except cilantro in a food processor or blender, mix just a little bit to incorporate the chipotle pepper and shallot. Put 1/3 cup of the dressing in a small bowl, set on the counter. You're gonna use this in a minute. Chop the cilantro, then add to the larger amount of dressing and put in the fridge until everything else is ready.

Now, take the chicken breast and season it on both sides with salt and pepper. Then, dip it in the reserved 1/3 cup dressing (or use a brush to coat both sides of the chicken.) Put the chicken on a wire rack, with a tray beneath it. Broil until internal temperature is 175F, flipping once. I think it took mine about 20 minutes total to cook.

The yogurt prevents the chicken from drying out. It had a great flavor!!

Rinse your salad greens and put on two big plates. To highlight the greens I used from Goldfinch Farms.....

First, my favorite from Goldfinch-arugula!! I have never tasted a more peppery arugula anywhere else. The flavor knocks my socks off. I can eat it plain, and I am not normally someone who nibbles on any variety of plain, raw greens. But this...this is something I look forward to every year now.

We also received a bag of mixed baby greens. They are tender, and include a wider variety than pictured here. Very, very good.

This, I think, is a type of red romaine. I could be wrong here. I liked the more sturdy nature of this lettuce for my salad, because of all the heavy toppings.

Add your desired amount of shredded cheese, and the corn. Slice the chicken and put half on each salad. Add the tortilla strips and drizzle with half the dressing.

Mmm I could eat this salad every day. Well, at least every week for awhile!

I served mojitos with this! Margaritas also acceptable.

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CSA Self-Challenge

This past Friday was an important day in our calendar year: The first produce pick-up of the season from Goldfinch Farms, our organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)!
In a CSA, if you don't know, you pay a farm up front, typically before the growing season starts, for one share in their crops. Then, every week you go and pick up a variety of produce that is in season that they grow on their farm. It isn't like the organic section of the supermarket. There is only local, seasonal produce, and you can only take as much as they allow for one share. I think it is great though, for several obvious reasons such as:

1. No shipping produce long distances, wanting fuel.
2. Supporting local farms.
3. Seasonal produce tastes best.
4. Everything is organic, and although I haven't done a cost comparison, I am almost sure it is cheaper than if you bought everythings organic at the supermarket. Also, it is great for small farmers, allowing them to have a steady income.

This is our second season buying from Goldfinch Farms. This year, a friend of mine also signed up for a share. She made me promise to help her think of recipes to use her share of produce every week. It is a bit of a challenge to use EVERYTHING in your share EVERY week. I know last year I have had to throw a few things away, which makes me sad!! As I was preparing a salad using their generous lettuce from Friday, I had an idea.

1. What if this year, I really challenged myself not to waste ANYTHING given to me, (even if it meant giving a friend a vegetable I don't like, or trying new things, or being extra creative)
2. Also, what if I blogged EVERYTHING I made with each part of my CSA share this season?

So that is my self challenge. I will try to post everything I make with my CSA share. Sometimes it will be a full recipe with measured ingredients and photos. Sometimes it may be a non-recipe with inexact measurements. Othertimes, it may be a brief description. But that is my adventure I have given myself! Check back to see what I made this week!

If you want to find a CSA near you, go to Local Harvest and you can do a search. (You can also find farmer's markets and restaurants that use local ingredients) (Unfortunately Goldfinch Farms is all sold out of shares for 2009. Gotta sign up early!)

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