Wednesday, August 31, 2011

fennel and napa slaw; aubergine and green tomato fritters

Hi folks - sorry it's been a while, but we were away on holiday (and thought it unwise to announce that fact on the internet until we got home). So we gave our boxes to a friend, and had a lovely time in Ontario in the heart of Mennonite territory - lots of fresh corn and tomatoes and peaches.

We're back, though, just in time for a bonanza haul from Taproot (especially all the fruit! I love it.) and from the garden.

Last night I sent Kenneth to pick a few beans for supper and he returned with mounds of beans, peas, and tomatoes. We didn't have the energy to do anything interesting with them (ie: canning, pickling) so we just blanched the beans and peas and froze them for winter. For dinner we had fresh garden lettuce salad with Taproot and home tomatoes, beans, peas and carrots - tasty.

For lunch today Kenneth had his favourite meal - toasted tomato sandwiches - and I had mine - tomato basil mozzarella and balsamic vinegar salad - but we also decided we'd better do something about the napa cabbage and fennel from two weeks ago that our house-sitter didn't manage to eat. (It says something about how long grocery-store produce must sit there, when Taproot food can still taste good after being in the fridge so long!) I adapted a Jamie Oliver salad to make a kind of coleslaw:

Fennel coleslaw
fennel, sliced thinly
napa cabbage, sliced thinly
1-2 carrots, julienned
1/2 onion, sliced thinly
1 T each fresh marjoram, Italian parsley, basil
3 T red wine vinegar
5 T olive oil
salt and pepper

I think this will taste even better tomorrow, when the flavours have the chance to meld a bit.

Tonight I broke two of my cardinal rules for corn: 1) we didn't eat it the day we got it but had it tonight instead; and 2) I changed the menu a little. It was a good meal - but I stand by my rules!

With the corn we made barbecued fritters of eggplant/aubergine and green windfall tomatoes from the garden. Neither is in the box, I know, but I think it would work equally well with ripe tomatoes - and we did get eggplant last year, so we might again. The recipe is simple: mix an egg with about 1/3 c milk in a shallow bowl, and put cornmeal in another shallow bowl (stir in salt, chilis or herbs if you like). Slice the eggplant and green tomatoes about 1 cm thick, dip each slice in the egg then in the cornmeal, and spray both sides with olive or canola oil. Barbecue at medium until the coating is crispy. Serve with salsa, garlic aioli, or whatever other topping you like.

The plums, cherries and blueberries are disappearing rapidly into breakfasts and snacks, and Kenneth is promising peach pie. We're also musing about that duck - Kenneth had a bad experience cooking one once, so we'll have to find a proper recipe. Any suggestions you have would be welcome!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Spaghetti alla Genovese

Tonight Ria and I played in the wading pool and ate beans and peas right out of the garden for a snack, so I didn't feel like breaking up the fun and doing anything time-consuming for dinner. This is a great speedy dinner, and perfect with the fresh produce this time of year.

Spaghetti alla Genovese
2-3 new potatoes per person
handful of green beans per person, trimmed & cut in half
1-2 T pesto per person
1 T pine nuts per person
parmesan cheese
salt & pepper
pasta (preferably spaghetti)
While the pasta is cooking, cut the potatoes in quarters or bite-sized pieces and boil until just tender; drain. Steam or boil the beans until just tender-crisp; drain. Scoop out 1/4-1/2 c. of pasta water; drain pasta when al dente; toss with potatoes, beans, pesto and pine nuts. Add enough pasta water to make the pesto smoothly coat everything. Add parmesan and s&p to taste. Serve with sliced or quartered fresh tomatoes.

We didn't have enough green beans from the garden so used a mix of yellow and green; it detracts slightly from the totally-green effect of the dish but tastes equally good. We also have finished last year's basil pesto, so I used a bit of garlic scape pesto and then lots of torn fresh basil and some olive oil. The combination of potatoes and pasta always seems a bit odd to me - both being 'breads' in my mental categories - but it works in this dish.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

chard filo packets; tabbouleh

Yesterday Kenneth made a very fancy-looking bread stuffed with spiced ground pork, onions, carrots, mushrooms and herbs. He's working to a deadline this week so I don't know whether he'll get the chance to blog - and I have no idea how he made it - but I think the recipe was in 300 Canadian Bread Machine recipes. It was very tasty. Lots of leftovers for lunches, too.

And yes, a confession, in case you were wondering why we didn't post about them: we let the vitamin greens linger in the back of the fridge, each hoping the other would know what to do with them, until the compost bin finally stepped in and claimed them.

Tonight I wanted to use up the filo we still had from last week. I was pleased we got one of the boxes with swiss chard instead of callaloo - the callaloo was fine but I love swiss chard - so I chopped up an onion, some garlic, the rest of the zucchini, the chard, and some red pepper, and sauteed the mix (in order: onion, garlic, chard stems, zucchini & pepper, chard leaves), added salt and pepper, then put a spoonful in the middle of every four sheets of filo and folded it up into a packet - brushing with butter, of course. Cooked at 350 until golden-brown and crispy. They were pretty good but I think would have been better with feta.

To go with the chard packets I made tabbouleh with the lovely fresh parsley we got today. I cooked 1/2 c. of couscous (you're supposed to use bulghur wheat but I only ever have couscous on hand), chopped all the parsley plus a handful of mint and chives from the garden, added two of the little tomatoes we got, a crushed/minced clove of garlic, and stirred it all together with the juice of 1 1/2 lemons and a fair bit of olive oil. This is a lovely fresh-tasting salad that only gets better as it sits - we ate about half and will add the rest to our lunch rotation of salads.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

pickled beans

"I think we should pick a few beans tonight," Kenneth said Friday. I dutifully went out to the garden after dinner ... and came back with our two largest bowls overflowing. And that's with a pile of as-yet-unused Taproot beans still in the crisper drawer.

So, tonight is the official inauguration of the summer canning season, wherein I, barefoot and pregnant (well, this year at least), or Kenneth, barefoot but not as obviously pregnant, can be found canning at odd hours of early morning or late night to beat the day's heat.

Tonight I did three jars of yellow mustard beans, two of green mustard beans, and three of green dilled beans. The mustard beans are my mother-in-law's recipe, and like all such family-handed-down recipes, it's a little vague on the quantities (it doesn't say how many beans, for example). But it's a great pickle, one I had never tried before coming to Nova Scotia. Here's the recipe (and I don't think I'm giving away any family secrets here!):

Eva's Mustard Beans
3/4 c flour
6 T dry mustard
1 T turmeric
4 c white sugar
3 1/2 c vinegar
slightly cooked beans, cut in 2-inch pieces (hmmm, let's say about 5 500 ml jars' worth?)

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add vinegar. Heat until bubbling - but don't burn, my mother-in-law helpfully adds!

There aren't directions for canning but I followed the Benardin cookbook recipe for mustard beans which is very similar - boil for 15 minutes in a hot-water canner.

This is the first year I've tried dilled beans, so I used the Benardin preserving cookbook recipe. It's a great book and if you're interested in learning how to can produce, it's a must-have. It gives very detailed directions and has some great recipes. (You can pick it up beside the canning supplies at Canadian Tire; most of the recipes are also on the Benardin website.) It maybe errs on the side of overkill when it comes to boiling times, but unless you're doing this with your grandmother or mother-in-law who has been canning since she was in diapers and has never had botulism, it's best to follow the safe-but-sure directions.

I'll let you know in 3 months or so how these taste...

Even if you don't have a garden, pickles are a great way to make sure the Taproot abundance doesn't go to waste. And if you don't have the amounts the recipe calls for, it doesn't really matter; you'll throw out a bit of the sauce/brine, but vinegar and sugar are pretty cheap. And the pickles are well worth it come February turnip season!


Friday, August 12, 2011

BBQ pizza, salads, and other BBQs

The triumph of this week was tonight's pizzas. We often make pizzas on a Friday - you can throw almost anything on them, everybody likes them, and they're reasonably healthy - but tonight I tried making them on the BBQ. I made our usual dough (see below), then split it into two large and one small personal-sized pizzas, grilled them a couple of minutes until toasty, flipped them over, let everyone pick their own toppings, then grilled them again on a lower heat until the toppings were cooked. Positively gourmet! Ria had cherry tomatoes, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and motz cheese; I had pesto, cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, olives, pine nuts, mozzarella and goat's cheese; Kenneth had pesto, zucchini, mushrooms, olives, and mozzarella. Everyone was happy except apparently I didn't make the 'toddler-sized' pizza big enough because she ate some of ours too!

My dough recipe is pretty easy:
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp fast-rising yeast
1 c very hot water.
Mix 1 c. flour, sugar, salt and yeast; add water; knead while mixing in enough of the other 1/4 cup of flour until the dough is soft and stretchy (3-5 minutes). Cover with a bowl and let it sit 15 minutes. Knead a bit more and roll into pizzas. You can also make this with 3/4 c. whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup of white flour, and 2 T honey if you want an even healthier option - this crust tends to be a little thinner and crispier.

For lunches we've been eating cold bok choi and soba noodle salad, Hungarian cucumber salad (cucumbers sliced as thinly as possible and soaked in a vinegar-sugar solution, tossed with fresh mint), and romaine lettuce & veggies salad.

Last night Kenneth made a fantastic BBQ - nothing we haven't made before, but it tasted really good. He basically baked four potatoes on the BBQ until they were lovely and soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, then cooked salmon topped with BBQ'd roasted cherry tomatoes, zucchini strips with pesto, and steamed beans & peas. Other than the salmon, an entirely Taproot meal. The night before I made scallops with bacon, mushrooms and the green tops of the onions; rice; and lemon broccoli (steam broccoli until tender-crisp; toss with olive oil, lots of lemon juice, salt, and pine nuts. Add more lemon, oil and salt!).

So a simple-meal week, but all very tasty.

I think we might be pickling this weekend - we brought in our first big bunch of beans from the garden, and it was way more than either Kenneth or I expected! The chard is sad, the spinach is almost non-existent, but the peas and beans are so expansive they're planning winter campaigns in Russia.

Enjoy the weekend!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

bok choi noodles

Corn again last night - I think this will become a Tuesday ritual. If you don't already know this, make sure you eat the corn from your box as soon as is possible - the fresher corn is, the better it tastes (I think the sugars convert to starch over time or something). My family's legend is the time we were down at a friend's farm in New York State, and they would actually get the water boiling before sending the kids running to the corn fields, shucking the corn on the run back so it would be as fresh as you can imagine by the time it hits the pot! Best corn I've ever tasted - though Taproot's comes close.

Today for lunch I adapted my soba noodle recipe to use up the last of last week's bok choi. 2 T sesame oil, 2 T honey, 5 T soy sauce, 5 T rice vinegar in a wok; slice and throw in bok choi and cook until it reduces. Cook and drain soba noodles; stir into wok. Top with toasted sesame seeds.

And a fridge full of food! I love the box this time of year, though Tuesday evenings are always taken up with cleaning, chopping and prepping - mostly so everything will fit in the fridge! Ria helps, though - she ate three plums, several blueberries, half an apple and a carrot while we were unpacking the box. And a whole cob of corn (plus cucumber, carrot and mustard beans) at dinner!


Using up the freezer

With the box getting fuller every week, we're realizing abundance season is upon us - so this weekend we actually used up some things in the freezer/basement shelves.

On Sunday I cooked a peach souffle for brunch - an adaptation of the strawberry souffle in the first section of Simply in Season. We had a bag of frozen sliced peaches from last summer, so I stewed them with a bit of brown sugar, cinnamon, nuts and cornstarch to make a sauce. The souffle puffed up beautifully, but unfortunately fell in the time it took to assuage a burnt finger from a toddler a little over-eager to have some 'cake!' Still tasted good, though, if more dessert-like than breakfast-like ... leftovers were good too.

Sunday evening Kenneth made spaghetti sauce, using up some of the fridge veggies (the rest of the kale, etc.) but also finishing the last can of tomatoes and the last package of frozen tomatoes. Come on tomato season!

On Monday I used up the rest of the spinach in a spanikopita (taken from the recipe my friend adapted for nettles: you can find it here A confession: I had to toss the spinach from the previous week since it had gone slimy. Sigh - I hate wasting food! The spanikopita worked really well (though I didn't do the whole salting thing at the beginning) - I halved the recipe, and it was fine. Definitely the recipe I'll be keeping for the future.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Apple Cider / Nitroglycerine

A few months ago, I purchased 20L of apple juice from Taproot Farms with the ambition of making some hard apple cider.

Now, we have done a fair bit of home-brewing in the past, and we have even made apple cider before – but I think that I was perhaps not so well prepared for what happened with this batch.

BOOM! I may have overdone it on the carbonation.

You see we bottle-condition (a term for feeding extra sugar to the remaining few yeast cells immediately before bottling) our brews, but it appears that perhaps I shouldn't have.

After mopping up my basement two or three times, I decided that I would drink off the rest of the cider well before the aging date that I had set for late August. I anticipated a bit of foam-over when I opened the first bottle – but not like this. The compressed juice FLEW up (all of it) and splashed all over the ceiling. Another mop-up. Now I open these bottles/bombs outside, in a wide and clean bowl, and well clear the house and any municipal infrastructure.

Anyway. Now the batch is stored in our kitchen fridge. The four-degree temperature has stopped the volatility of the yeast/carbonation, but not of the much-chagrined Kathy who is missing her Taproot storage space. I am doing my best to carve through the entire batch – a duty left entirely to me, as Kathy is with child. It's not a bad bargain though, because it is delicious cider. I am only worried about the almost-certain alcoholism.

Yes, the apples that Taproot provide make for a delicious cider. They are light and crispy-sweet tasting – perfect for a hot, sunny day. I highly recommend them. Just don't try for a sparkling cider, like yours truly. Traditional ciders are not carbonated, and it appears that there is good reason for this.



Saturday, August 6, 2011

stir fry; roast chicken; chicken salad

Ah, the season of abundance. I can tell already we're going to have trouble using up the box this week. Not that I'm complaining!

Wednesday I decided to use up the huge head of bok choi we got this week, so made a stir fry. Usually I just invent stir fries, but wanted something different so did hunt down a recipe. This is taken from Sarah Brown's World Vegetarian cookbook, though I did swap some of the ingredients and added leftover pork:

1 tsp corn starch
250 ml vegetable stock (I used beet water saved & frozen from cooking beets a night or two ago)
2 T soy sauce
2 T rice wine (I didn't have any so used regular wine)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
(I found this really salty, so also added about 3 T rice vinegar. Next time I would probably cut the salt.)

Stir fry:
3 tsp peanut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, grated
2 shallots, finely chopped (I used 1/2 an onion)
2 carrots, in matchsticks
1 head broccoli, in pieces
2 handfuls snap peas
2-3 cups bok choi, sliced

Dissolve the cornstarch in cold stock. Stir in rest of sauce ingredients. Heat the oil in a wok and cook garlic, ginger and onions. Add carrots, then broccoli, then peas, then bok choi, stir frying for a minute or two each. Add the sauce and cook until the sauce thickens, 5-10 minutes. Serve over noodles or rice.

Note: this used up about a third of the bok choi, even though the wok was full! Sigh.

Thursday Kenneth made a roasted chicken - meat share - so tasty. He follows Jamie Oliver's method (sometimes with modifications when we lack ingredients - such as oranges for lemons, as this time). It's the only chicken Ria will eat; she devoured more than I did, about three slices of breast and some leg. He served it with steamed fresh broccoli and carrots, and leftover rice.

Tonight Kenneth was planning spaghetti, but it was such a nice day we wanted to stay outside and didn't feel like cooking, so I made a big salad with leftover chicken, romaine lettuce, basil, snap peas, carrots, cucumber, and herbed dressing. Ria got a happy-face salad plate, and made a pretty good dent in it, though once again the chicken was the favourite. She has discovered the toddler joy of 'dipping' vegetables, so ate a fair bit of broccoli, carrot and cucumber, too.

Other ways we're using up the boxes:
-leftover pork or chicken sandwiches
-blueberry pancakes
-berries on cereal
-carrots, apples, cucumber and peas for snacks or sandwich sides
-berry popsicles (drop a few berries into the moulds, top off with diluted juice - I use white cranberry or grape, because it's less messy when it drips - and freeze)

Still in the fridge: bok choi, kale, cucumber, peas, basil, spinach x2, broccoli ... hum, we might be freezing some this week!

Happy sun ... for a few days at least.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Corn on the cob dinner

Box day - and wait, no zucchini?!? What is the world coming to?

But corn, corn, corn. The reason summer exists. Corn on the cob is a ritual in my family, and we have very set ideas about how it should be cooked. Big pot, five minutes once the water returns to boiling - don't overcook. None of the barbecue grilled with lime or spice or whatever else magazines are advertising this summer. Just butter and salt.

We also don't serve corn on the cob with meat or anything else (my mother's concession to my brother-in-law involves sliced ham, but the rest of us all look on disapprovingly). We have corn on the cob, pickled beets, new carrots (raw), vinegared cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, and sometimes baby potatoes or string beans. This is always my birthday dinner - often the first corn of the season.

Tonight we replaced the pickled beets with beet greens, and we didn't have any tomatoes; we also added mustard beans (another favourite I only discovered after moving to Nova Scotia). But the carrots, cucumbers, corn and bread stayed true to tradition. Ria must remember corn on the cob from last year because she was begging the whole time I was cooking (and actually took a bit or two raw); she also likes the beet green stems as long as we call them 'noodles'!

Our fridge is jam-packed - Tuesdays in the summer are always busy evenings. Tonight we stewed rhubarb, boiled beets for Ria's lunches, and for a late-evening snack we'll have the raspberries and blueberries that didn't fit in the fridge. Life is good.


spiced zucchini muffins; hodgepodge

For Natal Day holiday breakfast Ria and I let Kenneth sleep in and I made zucchini muffins. I actually used up all of the zucchini the day before Tuesday! A record I think. This is a really good recipe, and uses up about two small-ish zucchinis.

1 c whole wheat flour
1 c white flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon (I like more)
1/2 t ginger
1/4 t allspice
1/4 t made
1/4 t salt
2 c grated zucchini
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 egg
3/4 c yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix together the dry ingredients. Add the sugar and zucchini. Whisk together the wet; add to the dry ingredients. Spoon into muffin tins and cook 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry.

For dinner, Kenneth cooked the first hodgepodge of the year. We didn't have any Taproot carrots left, so we had to buy grocery store carrots, but if you have beans and potatoes leftover from last week you can combine them with this week's peas and carrots to make this essence-of-summer Nova Scotian dish. I had never experienced it before coming to Nova Scotia, but I'm now a convert.

Every family has its own recipe; Kenneth's method is to boil the carrots and potatoes until they're soft, then put them and the boiling juices in a casserole with string beans, peas, milk, cream, and about half a pound of butter, I think. (His is the low-cal version, as you can see.) Salt and pepper, then in the oven at 350 for about half an hour. We had company, so Kenneth also barbecued meat share pork steaks, but they aren't really necessary; with a loaf of fresh bread, hodgepodge is a meal in itself.

Dessert was ice cream with the last jar of last year's spiced plums.