Monday, September 26, 2011

pesto and pickled plums

Another preserving night - this time canning the spiced plums which I made up a few days ago ( plus finally dealing with the basil in the garden (and from Taproot last week). The plums look great, but only made two jars, and there was yet more syrup - so we took a risk and canned two jars of apple chunks too. (I figured if crabapples tasted good, then regular apples should work as well.) The apples came out of the hot water canner looking a little mushy, so it might be a spiced apple syrup or sauce we got - but they also look very pretty, since the plums had coloured the syrup a beautiful glowing red.

I've been meaning to make pesto for a while, since the basil in our garden looked to be nearing its best-before date, so this evening Ria and I picked most of the basil. Pesto is a very simple recipe, and is definitely a money-saver if you make your own in season, rather than buying jars. We make a batch then freeze it in ice-cube trays (try to remember to spray the tray with olive oil first; the pesto comes out more easily) and eat it all winter long.

The recipe I use is a combination of a few, with the aim of lots of basil and less oil or expensive pine nuts:
1 c very packed basil leaves
1-3 cloves garlic (depending on their size and your taste)
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
1 T pine nuts
2 T -ish of olive oil
2 T lemon juice
1/4-1/2 tsp of salt (depending on your taste)

Toss everything in a blender and puree. You may need to use a little more olive oil to get the blender blending - you will also have to push the basil down occasionally with a wooden spoon to make sure the blender keeps chopping. (Don't do this while the blender is running, or you will have woody pesto ... yes that's the voice of experience speaking.) Taste and add whatever is missing, then freeze in small quantities.

You can substitute walnuts or other nuts for the pine nuts, and you can also combine other herbs with the basil.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fennel Pasta with Caesar Salad side

Fennel is sort of my newer love, and some of its uses remain a mystery to me. When Taproot delivered several full bulbs in as many weeks I went looking for new uses and adventures.

Where it asks you to "slice thin" the fennel bulb, I chopped it, but I'm not sure that it makes too much difference. I'll slice it next time, and let you know. I also used penne, for want of spaghetti.

This would make a great meal by itself, but I added caesar salad and pickled olives for some variety on the plate. The pasta then made a pasta salad good for lunches for the week.

Olives aside, I am a bit of a stickler for preservatives in food, so I NEVER use that poison (he said, zealously) that they sell as "salad dressing" at the grocer's. So I make my own caesar salad dressing. Here is a recipe for enough dressing to make two big batches of caesar salad. This is sort of the minimum amount, as the lower limit is set by the single egg.

Caesar salad:
Clean and dry romaine leaves or similar lettuce (we used Taproot's bib lettuce this time around). Set aside.

Bring water to a boil and toss in one egg. Boil for exactly one minute, then remove and immediately put it in a bowl of ice water until ready to use.

Toss into your blender and purée:
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1/2 rib of celery, chopped
1/4 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. anchovy paste
1/2 tsp. gound pepper
1/2 tsp. powdered mustard seed
a pinch of sugar

After this is puréed, add this and re-purée:
the egg (spoon both cooked and raw bits into the blender)

After this is puréed, add this and re-purée:
2/3 c. oil (You are supposed to use pure olive oil, but I cheat and go 1/3 c. olive oil, and 1/3 c. sunflower or safflower oil.)

Toss about half of this dressing with the lettuce and some croutons. If you like a more "dynamic flavour" (as I do) you can add – to taste – a clove or two of raw minced garlic and some more lemon. Raw grated lemon is best.

Store-bought croutons are a crap shoot (read this as you will), but you can make your own croutons easily enough by chopping and frying up some dried-out bread with butter and minced herbs – and maybe some garlic. If your bread is not dried, then chop and put it in the oven at a really low heat as you prep the rest of the meal. Be careful not to toast it much in the oven, as the frying pan will do this already.

Bon appetit!


Thursday, September 22, 2011

balsamic salmon & zucchini

Quick and easy dinner tonight: rice, salmon brushed with dijon and balsamic vinegar, grilled in a grill pan (these are great for when it's raining and you can't bbq) alongside yellow and green zucchini slices tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar; sliced fresh tomato on the side.

And the salsa is canned! The recipe I posted yesterday makes exactly 6 250-ml jars.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A canning night

A productive evening - tonight we finally got to the canning we've been meaning to do for a while. We aren't quite as overrun as we were last year - I think we're getting fewer tomatoes from the garden, for whatever reason, and Ria is making a significant dent in the abundance of fruit - but there were still a few things that had to be dealt with.

#1 crabapples
I'm not crazy about jams and jellies, and we have lots downstairs, so I decided to make last week's crab apples into something else. A friend told me about her grandmother's pickled crab apples, which sounded good, so this is the recipe I tried: (I halved the syrup recipe.) We got two 500 ml jars out of it - and they look so pretty!

#2 plums
I had lots of syrup left over from the crabapples. Last year we made spiced plums that were fantastic, and the syrup for the crabapples was close enough that I decided to use the rest of it on the quart of plums from the fruit share. But this is the real recipe, if you want to try your hand at them. (They're pretty strong on their own, but they're really tasty with ice cream.) As you can tell, it was a British recipe I inherited/found (I have no idea of the source now) - someday I'll translate into cups. The pits are a bit annoying but not as annoying as trying to take them all out.

Spiced plums
4 quarts plums
3 lbs sugar
1 pint vinegar
1 T cinnamon
1 T cloves
1 T allspice
Make a syrup from the vinegar, sugar and spices. Boil 5 minutes. Prick each plum with a fork and pour syrup over fruit. Cover and allow to stand three days. Skim out plums; boil syrup 5 minutes. Add plums and heat to boiling; ladle into hot sterilized jars; can 20 minutes.

#3 salsa
Tomatoes were starting to take over the counters and fridge, as always seems to happen, so Kenneth and I also made salsa tonight. We'll simmer it all day tomorrow and then can it tomorrow night. The recipe is Kenneth's mother's recipe, slightly modified to our own tastes.

10 cups chopped tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
1 small can of mild green chillies
3-6 jalapeno peppers, finely diced (suit heat to your own taste)
1 large tin (370 ml) of tomato paste
3/4 cup vinegar
1/4 c brown sugar
1 T coarse salt (pickling or kosher)
2 t paprika
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch cilantro/coriander

Mix everything together except a couple of the jalapenos; bring to a boil uncovered; simmer at least 1 1/2 hours (longer is better). Taste and add jalapenos to taste. Can 20 minutes.

The salsa sounds like a lot of chopping, but we have a hand-turned food processor/chopper, so it goes pretty quickly. I'm sure it would be even faster with an electric food processor.

I'd love to hear your canning recipes!


pork spring rolls

Last night I used up the rest of the leftover pork shoulder steak and a lot of the new and old vegetables from the box. It was a pretty simple meal, actually, though a little messy to eat!

I sliced the pork, julienned pea pods, cucumber, and carrots, and chopped cilantro; everything went on the table in small bowls. I also made a bowl of vermicelli noodles, and added plum sauce (from Taproot), soy sauce, and Thai sweet and sour spring roll sauce to the assortment on the table. Then we had a pan of warm water, dipped rice paper wraps in right at the table, and assembled our own spring rolls. It makes dinner fun - and everyone can have the ingredients they want! Ria loved them - ate mostly vermicelli with plum sauce, had a couple of little rolls, and then when we were all done she ate her way through the rest of the pork. So much for the leftovers for lunches I had planned!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

potato day

Today seemed to be use-up-potatoes day - they've been accumulating in the bottom drawer of our fridge. I was going to make muffins for breakfast, but using up the potatoes seemed smarter. We still have loads left, but today made a bit of a dent.

So for breakfast I made potato pancakes. Every country/cuisine has a different recipe for these, but my mother never made them, and I happened to learn mine in Hungary. I think in Ireland and America they tend to make them with mashed potatoes, but this version is easier because it doesn't require pre-boiling or mashing. You just grate a few potatoes on a cheese grater (usually 3-4 does us - it makes more than you think), and mix in enough flour to stick them together (I usually use whole wheat). If they're for dinner, you can add garlic or other spices/flavours; for breakfast I keep it simple. Heat about 1/2 cm of oil in a pan until a piece of grated potato sizzles; shape the flour and potato into pancakes and fry until browned and crispy. Serve with yoghurt or sour cream if you're being authentically Hungarian; ketchup if you're having an American day.

With the potato pancakes we had meat-share sausage, eggs, and cooked half-tomatoes, all cooked in the same antique cast-iron frying pan. Not the healthiest breakfast ever, but it sure holds you longer than muffins do!

For dinner we ate the leftovers of Kenneth's meatloaf casserole, but that didn't seem quite enough, so I mashed up a few potatoes. I don't like most people's mashed potatoes - not sure why - but this is my way: chop potatoes into chunks (unpeeled), boil until a fork inserts easily, drain. Return to pot; add a hunk of butter, a minced clove of garlic, a couple of chopped green onions, and cream cheese if you have it (milk or cream if you don't, but not too much). Mash, taste, add salt and pepper, cook a little longer, and add more salt/butter/cheese/pepper if needed.

I was going to make spiced pickled crabapples tonight but might just pack it in.


pork steaks and corn on the cob

Yesterday Kenneth's sister was kind enough to come over to help paint the garage, so the least we could do was feed her. We still had corn from the box, but not quite enough to make a meal in itself. So we thawed two pork shoulder steaks from the meatshare, and made a caprese salad to go alongside. All local - all tasty.

For the pork, I looked up a couple of recipes online and the rule of thumb seemed to be keep it simple. So I brushed each steak with dijon mustard, then coated it with a rub Kenneth had made up a while ago - a Caribbean spice mix, which probably had paprika, chili powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, cumin, and who knows what else. Threw them on a fairly hot BBQ and made sure not to overcook. The steaks were huge - the three of us ended up splitting one, and the other we'll have for leftovers this week.

The corn I kept simple as always, and then made an easy-but-fancy-looking salad: alternated slices of red and yellow tomatoes (mostly from our garden, but possibly some from Taproot) in a circle on a plate, topped with slices of boccocini (mozzarella would also work) and lots of shredded fresh basil, then salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. A bit of fresh bread, and we called it dinner.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Tasty German Meatloaf with cauliflower

This is a tasty dish that I started making back in college. Tonight I found out that it can feed a young family too – at least a young family with a cauliflower to use up.

I know that I originally found this recipe from some cookbook or the other, but I can not remember the source. For some reason, I thought maybe Jane Brody, but that seems a bit unlikely. I researched it and found the same recipe online; however, this site seems to have not cited their source, leaving me even more curious.

It's a very simple recipe, and here it is.

For the step that mixes the cheese and milk, they mean the condensed milk.
I also modified the recipe by adding about seven to ten short sprigs of fresh thyme – de-stemmed – from the herb garden. (It does say "German" meatloaf, after all. Ja!)

I served this with yellow and green English cucumber from Taproot and the garden, respectively. Also, Taproot's famous carrots, lightly steamed, then stirred with a spoonful of Cosman and Whidden's honey and a small handful of chopped Italian parsley from the herb garden. On the side a small amount of brown bread, and some Chamomile Pear jelly* that I made the other night.

And a beer. (It does say "German" meatloaf, after all. Ja!)

Bon appetit!


* Chamomile Pear jelly, plus the pear nectar recipe demanded in this recipe. I often pick a mass of chamomile flowers from the Annapolis Valley on our annual strawberry-picking pilgrimage. The best chamomile often grows in the same place/conditions as strawberries. The dried flowers will make a tea that can knock out the most hopeless insomniac.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

aubergine/eggplant pasta

I've been saving the aubergine/eggplant we got in the box last week - when I dated a vegetarian, I learned all sorts of really good aubergine recipes, and I was looking forward to using one. I'm delighted Taproot has managed to produce good-sized aubergines! I didn't even know you could do that in this climate.

Anyways, tonight's dinner was taken from the Paradiso Seasons cookbook - one of the best vegetarian cookbooks ever, and a lovely restaurant too (if you're ever in Cork, Ireland, make sure you go). Usually I mess with recipes a little, but tonight the only change I made was from 4 whole dried bird's-eye chillies to a tsp of dried crushed red chillies.

Aubergine/Eggplant Pasta sauce
1 eggplant, in small dice
olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp coriander
2 sprigs thyme
5 fresh tomatoes, diced
120 ml (about half a cup) red wine
2 tsp tomato puree

Toss the aubergine in olive oil & rosemary and roast at 400 until they're browned and cooked through, stirring occasionally. Cook onions in a bit of oil in a large wok or pan for 5 minutes. Add garlic, spices, and leaves from the thyme. Cook 2 minutes more. Add tomatoes, wine and tomato puree. Bring to a boil then simmer 20 minutes or until thick. Add the roasted aubergine and cook another 10 minutes. Add salt; serve with pasta and some parmesan. (Olives on the side were good too.)


ways with cherry tomatoes - orzo salad, cherry tomato chutney

For lunches this week I made orzo pasta with cherry tomatoes - an easy, tasty pasta salad. Orzo pasta looks like rice, and makes a really nice pasta salad because it's a bit more delicate than some pastas.

1 c dry orzo
1 c cherry tomatoes, halved
10-20 kalamata olives, halved and without pits
handful herbs, chopped (basil, thyme, lemon thyme and mint all work well)
feta or mozzarella cheese
3 T lemon juice
3 T olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Cook the orzo in water; drain. Run under cold water. Mix with tomatoes, herbs, olives, and cheese. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper; toss with pasta. This salad keeps well; you might have to add a little more oil and lemon juice if the pasta absorbs too much of the liquid.

If you're finding it hard to use up the abundance of cherry tomatoes (if you get both the fruit and veggie boxes), here's another recipe I used last year - though I haven't had time yet to make it this year.

This recipe grew out of desperation: we were getting about two or three pints of cherry tomatoes in our CSA share along with regular tomatoes – not to mention the tomatoes we ourselves had planted! My kitchen was overrun with tomatoes, and I started a hunt for something to turn cherry tomatoes into. All the recipes I could find, however, were for cherry tomato chutney or salsa you could keep in the fridge a couple of days – nothing you could preserve. So I invented this. Leave the skins on, by the way – have you ever tried to peel cherry tomatoes?!

Cherry tomato chutney

1 onion, chopped

2 quarts cherry tomatoes, halved

5-7 apples, peeled and chopped

2 cups raisins

1 ½ cups white vinegar

2 cups brown sugar

½ jalapeno pepper, diced finely

2 T ground ginger

1 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp ground nutmeg

3 T lemon juice

Cook onion in a little oil in a large pot until soft. Add apples and tomatoes; cook 2-3 minutes on medium until the tomatoes are starting to lose their shape. Add the raisins, vinegar, sugar, pepper, and spices. Cook on low for about an hour or until thick. Add lemon juice. Ladle into sterilized mason jars, stir to release bubbles, and put on lids (don’t overtighten). Boil in a canner for 30 minutes.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

September avalanche

Wow - I forgot how September hits like a brick wall. Combine that with harvest being a bit late this year, I think - at least the abundance of fruit and tomatoes seems later - and what with canning, pickling, freezing, and class prep, I haven't had any time to blog. My apologies.

So - here are a few highlights of the past couple of weeks.

Corn - we ordered an add-on and have had a couple of corn meals. It's easy and fast and everyone loves it; lightly boil corn and serve with vinegar cucumbers, pickled beets, carrots, tomatoes, and fresh bread, and it's on the table in 15 minutes.

Salmon with green tomato salsa, adapted from p. 112 Simply in Season cookbook. Grilled zucchini and bbq-roasted potatoes on the side. Another night, the salmon & kale recipe I blogged about here: I added fennel this time, which worked alright.

Pizzas - Our usual Friday-night specialty got a bit fancy. We had a variety of leftovers, so made a few different small pizzas. Kenneth's sister had left some homemade bechamel sauce from when she stayed here, so one pizza was a 'white pizza' with bechamel sauce, leftover chicken, sweet taproot onions sliced finely, garlic, and mozzarella. We also had a Tex-mex pizza with leftover green tomato salsa mixed with regular salsa, chicken, green peppers, broccoli, cheddar and mozzarella. Ria made her own creation of olive oil, broccoli, chicken, green peppers, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella, and I finished up with a margarita: olive oil, fresh sliced tomatoes, lots of fresh basil, fresh oregano, and mozzarella. Yum, and leftovers for lunches too.

Salads - we have, of course, been making a variety of salads. The most unique one is maybe the Jamie Oliver 'root salad' - I adapted it a few weeks ago with the napa cabbage, but made the real version this week. Slice fennel, carrots, and celery as thinly as you can. Toss with olive oil and red wine vinegar, and fresh herbs (he calls for marjoram, basil and oregano) and salt and pepper. Let it sit for a bit for the flavours to mix.

Chili - on one of the gloomier days, Kenneth made a great fall dish: an almost-all-local chili. He's dictating to me: 2 lbs of ground beef, browned; 2 big handfuls of oregano sprigs from the herb garden, destemmed; 2 large onions, chopped; 1/2 chopped green pepper (celery and mushrooms also work, but we didn't have any); 3 handfuls of ground cumin & 5 handfuls of chili powder (but he adds that probably our spices are a little stale, so that seems like a lot); 3 cloves minced garlic. After this cooks for a while, put in a lot of tomatoes chopped in 1-inch pieces (he's estimating about 5 lbs). He cooked that all day on the lowest heat our stove could manage (drain off the condensed water on the lid occasionally) and paired it with freshly-made spicy cornmeal bread.

Pickles - we ordered an add-on of pickling cucumbers, and tried our hand at the Benardin recipe for low-sodium dill pickles. We'll let you know in a couple of months how those worked! We also dilled the last of the beans from the garden.

Desserts - Kenneth made a fantastic ginger peach pie, and a plum tart. I was sick of the bushelful of apples sitting in the middle of the kitchen (we don't have a cold cellar and there wasn't room in the fridge) so made applesauce to freeze (you can also can it). I also tried making apple-peel chips, so as not to waste the peels, sprinkling them with cinnamon then baking them on low in the oven - but they were a resounding failure!

Breakfasts - sausages from the meat share. Apple waffles from Simply in Season. Lots and lots of fruit every morning.

Snacks/lunches - fruit, carrots, cucumbers, green pepper, broccoli, etc. etc.!

Kenneth at present is a busy beaver and seems to be making a broccoli soup of some sort. Me, I'm packing it in for the night!