Monday, September 29, 2014

Tomatillo and peach salsa

My garden was a complete failure this year. A mix of weeds, lack of time, and a woodchuck contributed. However, my compost bins were quite productive. We had a huge vine grow in one of our compost bins, resulting in all of the decorative gourds you see below.

On the right of the photo are several tomatillos. While the garden didn't produce any tomatoes, the tomatillos that seed themselves every year did grow well in the weed patch. I never planted tomatillos; they came from compost after I got some in my Land's Sake CSA many years ago.

Finally, there's a lone plum tomato in the photo. A tomato plant grew out the side of our other compost bin, the only tomato plant that produced this year.
I used this batch of tomatillos in a salsa, mixing together a chopped peach, the chopped tomatillos, some chopped cilantro, the juice of half of a lime, salt, and a small bit of olive oil.
We used it with some fried plantains...
...and some scallops.
Husband had his on fish, but I don't have a photo of that.

I made the salsa just 15 minutes before we were going to eat, as I didn't want it to get mushy.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hasselback potatoes

Not potato weekend, but potatoes on a weekend. This time, I tried The Kitchn's recipe for Hasselback potatoes. The photo reminded me of the potato roast that my sister-in-law introduced me to, but without the need to peel potatoes or to cook 4 pounds of them.

Set your oven to 425. Wash your potatoes. I made two, one for me and one for the husband. No need to peel.
Slice the potatoes thinly, but not all of the way through. You can see that I went a bit too far on one of my cuts in the potato on the right in the photo below, but it was still connected a bit and stayed together.

Brush the potatoes with olive oil (or a combination of olive oil and butter, according to the recipe, but I just used olive oil). Then bake for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, take the potatoes out and brush with more olive oil, getting the brush in between each slice. Then bake for another 30 minutes.
Take out the potatoes and stuff with chopped fresh herbs. The recipe suggests that other things could be stuffed in, such as cheese or bacon. Bake for 10 more minutes.
Here are the finished potatoes.
To me, these potatoes were better than the potato roast (crispy outsides, but not reminding me of dehydrated potatoes, as the potato roast edges did). It certainly felt much easier: no peeling of potatoes and no stuffing potatoes into a baking dish. It also allowed me to make two potatoes, one for each person, instead of an amount that needs to fit into a baking dish to allow the potato slices to stand up.

I think these potatoes would be good with thin slices of shallots or garlic added between the cut slices of potatoes. Either would need to be added at the start of cooking, to allow for sufficient baking time.

I really enjoyed this cooking method and will make potatoes this way again. It just has to be done on a night where you have an hour and fifteen minutes before you want to eat dinner....

Friday, September 26, 2014

What's in the box, 9/25/14 edition

Just one box this week, as the supplemental tomato share has ended.
In this weeks' box: cilantro, bell peppers, green tomatoes, garlic, kohlrabi, potatoes, carrots, fennel, rainbow chard, and a bag of greens (perhaps braising, perhaps mesclun - I didn't have a chance to look at it closely yet).

I'm going to freeze most of the cilantro for winter recipes by chopping it in the food processor with a bit of water then freezing it in small ice cubes. Thinking that I'll roast the fennel with carrots as a side one night. One night's dinner might have a Japanese theme, with chard oshitashi and quick picked kohlrabi (cut thinly, salt, drizzle with rice vinegar and some sesame oil). I might try a Spanish tortilla with the potatoes and peppers, as I wanted to try making it with peppers.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Veggies on the road

Some people take photos of scenery while traveling. On a recent trip to Chicago, I took a photo of cauliflower at a farmers' market that I visited with a friend.
We've yet to have cauliflower in a box this fall. I hope some is coming soon.

On the same trip, I bought these cucamelons. Not local to Chicago at all, just sold in a store there.
They were a bit larger than grapes, with a skin that looked like watermelon and an inside that looked (and tasted) like a cucumber.
I flew some home to share with the husband. We put them in a salad.
It was good to try them, but it's not something that I feel the need to seek out elsewhere. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Links: so many cakes....

I seem to be collecting links to many cake recipes. Perhaps it's a sign that it's time to make (and eat) some cake.

  • Coconut pound cake. I want to make this one first.
  • Olive oil cake from the Boston Globe. Better yet, its use in a trifle. I want to make this one very shortly after trying the coconut cake.
  • Plum torte, which uses the prune plums that are currently in season
  • Spiced parsnip cake. Although there haven't been any parsnips in the weekly boxes yet, I know that they will be in there soon, given the cool weather these days.
  • Snickerdoodle bundt cake. I'm generally not a fan of coffee cakes that use sour cream, but I may try this one.

I have also collected some vegetable links.

The cake links look much more interesting.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tomato weekend

This weekend was spent making lots of roasted tomato sauce.

I started on Friday evening with some tomatoes from my mom and others from Siena Farms.
This batch was made with tomatoes, onions, and garlic.
On Sunday morning, I drove to Verrill Farm to pick up a few things. I found that they had two large milk crates of tomato seconds. So I bought both of them.
Then I made two huge batches of sauce. Here's the first batch on Sunday, using one crateful of tomatoes. I added a hot pepper to each of the roasting pans to add some spice to the sauce.
Here's the first batch ready for the freezer.
Later in the day, I roasted the second crateful of tomatoes.
Then packaged up the sauce for the freezer.
We now have enough sauce to make it until next year's tomato season.

Natural vegetarian bacon flavor

While traveling last week, I saw this poster for a maple bacon doughnut frozen yogurt.
Ignoring how odd that flavor seems for frozen yogurt, check out the bottom of the poster, which promises "natural vegetarian bacon flavor." I'll let "natural" and "vegetarian" go with "flavor" or "natural" and "bacon" go with "flavor" -- but all four together just doesn't work for me.

I noticed that the sign was gone the next day. Given that I was only in the area for a couple of days, it might have been that the flavor had been there for a while and was now gone. However, I prefer to think that many people reacted similarly to me, so the poster was removed.

Friends have pointed out that bacon bits have no real bacon in them... but would you consider bacon bits to be natural?

Friday, September 19, 2014

What's in the box, 9/18/14 edition

Sadly, this week marks the last week of the supplemental tomato share.
Other than the box of tomatoes, we received broccoli, broccoli rabe, brazing greens, arugula, lots of fairy tale eggplants, bell peppers, hungarian hot wax peppers, shallots, and an acorn squash.

I'm planning to grill veggies tonight, not only for dinner but also for leftovers. I'll be using some to make a couscous salad with grilled veggies for a family get together. The leftover grilled eggplants will be made into baba ganoush.

I'm also planning to make pasta with broccoli rabe (using cured garlic instead of green garlic, given the time of year).

The brazing greens will likely end up in a quiche with some dried tomatoes. I think that I'll make gazpacho to go with it. Given that the tomato share has ended, it's likely to be the last one of the season.

I'm not ready to have acorn squash yet, so I'm going to store it. Despite the weather, it's still officially summer, thus I want to eat summery food for now. I know it's a losing battle though....

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Roasted tomato sauce

Last week, we used the last of the tomato sauce in the freezer from last year. It's time to make sauce to freeze for the coming year. I had over 9 pounds of tomatoes from the farm and from my mom. (Never refuse an offer of tomatoes from a family member or friend.)
The easiest recipe for sauce that I've ever found came from Martha Stewart -- or at least it started from there. I've adapted it over the years.

For the amount of tomatoes I had, I prepared two baking pans, by adding a large sweet onion and a few garlic cloves to both.
Wash your tomatoes, core if needed (I don't core plum tomatoes), and cut in half. Fill the pans with tomatoes.
Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about an hour.
Remove from the oven and let cool. Or, if you roasted your tomatoes late a night, turn off the oven and let them cool overnight in the oven. (But don't forget them. You need to finish first thing in the morning.)
Here's where I diverge from the recipe. Instead of putting all of the liquid into the food processor, I strain off the liquid, as it makes for a thicker sauce.
Then I grind the tomatoes in the food processor, one batch at a time. I added fresh basil, dried oregano, and salt to each batch.
Here's the sauce after grinding.
I mix all of the batches together in a pan, to even out the spices and salt level, as well as the onion and garlic content. It allows you to be less careful about how you put things into the food processor.
Add salt and spices as needed, to taste.
Then package the sauce for the freezer. I use 8 oz plastic deli containers that I save all year.
This batch made 10 containers for freezing.
I need to make a lot more for us to make it through to next tomato season!

You can vary the recipe in several ways:

  • Often, I will add hot peppers to the roasting pans to make a spicy sauce. You could also use hot pepper flakes, added to the food processor, if you don't have fresh hot peppers.
  • If you have an eggplant to use, roast it with the tomatoes.
  • Skip the garlic and make a sweeter sauce. 

While the entire process is not quick, the hands on time is relatively low. No peeling tomatoes. No watching sauce simmer on the stove. I've found it to be the easiest way for me to make sauce to last the whole year. It also helps that I freeze the sauce instead of canning it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Links: veggie waffles

I've collected many links over the past couple of weeks:

Haven't had a chance to try any of them yet, but looks like a good set of recipes. Let me know if you try any of them.

Finally, not a recipe, but an interesting comparison of chocolate chip cookies baked in different ways.

Chocolate chip banana bread

Sometimes we buy too many bananas. With one or two overripe bananas, I'll make banana pancakes with pecans and coconut. With three or four, I'll make banana bread. Not just any banana bread, but banana bread with chocolate chips. The original recipe calls for nuts, but chocolate chips are much, much better.
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 or 3 (or 4) ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Cream butter until soft. Add sugar and eggs. Beat until fluffy. Add mashed bananas. Add baking powder, salt and first cup of flour, then mix until just combined. Add the second cup of flour. Mix. Add the chocolate chips and mix one last time.

Bake at 350 degrees in a greased and floured loaf pan for 1 hour and 15 minutes. (I usually set my timer for 70 minutes, then check for the last 5 minutes. Sometimes it needs an additional 5 minutes or so.)

Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and turn out the loaf on to a cooling rack.

I recommend overbuying bananas once in a while, even if you usually don't, as this is a particularly good banana bread recipe. I don't know its origins; it was passed down to me from my mom.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Grape jelly and peach jam

[Note: 43 cups of sugar were used in the making of this blog post.]

We have many grape vines growing wild in the backyard. This year, they were particularly prolific. Over 10 pounds of grapes were picked...
...then removed from their stems.
Washed, then put into a large stock pot, covered with water, and brought to a boil.
After they come to a boil, I turn them down to simmer for 10 minutes or so. After done, I let the mixture cool on the stove for a bit, so that I'm not working with a very hot mixture.
Clean your sink well. The grapes stain so much that I move ladles of the mixture into the jelly strainer in the sink.
It takes a while for the juice to drain off. I ended up very carefully moving the strainer and juice up to the counter, so that I could use my sink again.
Once strained, I had over 18 cups of grape juice. I put it into jars to sit in the fridge until I was ready to make the grape jelly, which happened three days later.
First, boil all of the jars and tops.
Then make the grape jelly. I use the recipe in the Certo box. I make two batches at a time, which means 8 cups of juice and 14 cups of sugar go into the stock pot to start.
After making the first double batch of grape jelly, I made peach jam, also from the recipe in the Certo box.
First, you boil the peaches for 2-3 minutes to loosen the skins.
Take the peaches out of the water to cool. Skinning really hot peaches is no fun.
The skin usually pulls off easily.
I finely chopped the peaches, ending up with 8 cups, which was a double batch of the peach jam recipe (8 cups peaches, 14 cups sugar, 2 pouches of Certo).
After making the peach jam, I made the second double batch of grape jelly. (I processed the jars after each batch was made. I don't have any photos of boiling jelly or jam, filling jars, or boiling jars, as it can be messy.)

Here's what my counter looked like at the end of this jelly and jam making spree.
Many jars have been given to friends, and many remain in the pantry for the winter.

Someone offered me some apples from a tree in their yard today. Tempted to try making apple jelly....