Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Drunken Summer Berries

A dessert of fresh berries soaked in orange liqueur is a great way to spice up an otherwise humdrum weeknight! I used Patron Citronge, but Grand Marnier would work too, as would probably any citrusy hard alcohol that you happen to have around. I have a plethora of hard alcohol leftover from my college days that now sits mainly untouched in the pantry, so I was happy to crack open the Patron for this dessert.

CSA Week 13:

In the box: 1 lettuce, 1 cucumber, 1 bunch carrots, 1 basket grape tomatoes, 1 pound Sweet Girl tomatoes, 2 pounds red potatoes, 1 sweet onion, 1 pound summer squash, 1 basket blackberries, 1 basket strawberries.

A recurring theme throughout the week was garlic and herb goat cheese. I had a huge log of it in the fridge, purchased awhile ago for a recipe I don't think I'll ever get around to making, so I decided to just open it up and start using it.

Ahhh, more potatoes! I tried to make a variation on the Smitten Kitchen red potato tart I made a few months ago. Instead of blue cheese I used garlic and herb goat cheese. I skipped the crust because I was short on time, and just baked it in a buttered 9x9 baking dish. The flavor was great but I think I must not have let the potatoes cool long enough because the filling was kinda lumpy, as if the egg had started to scramble. As a result, the texture was a bit off but we were still happy to eat it. Maybe it also had to do with the fact that I threw some Greek yogurt into the custard mixture? I really shouldn't just add random stuff to recipes when I have no idea what I'm doing.

I made an awesome Greek salad using some of the lettuce, all of the cucumber, most of the tomatoes, tiny bit of the sweet onion, feta, chopped roasted chicken from the store, olive oil, rice vinegar, salt, and pepper.

The rest of the sweet onion got sauteed and placed on top of burgers that had been stuffed with goat cheese. To go with the burgers, we grilled the summer squash (cut into spears) and sauteed a bunch of the grape tomatoes in the same pan as the onion, until they were just starting to burst out of their skins.

The rest of the Sweet Girl tomatoes were sliced and placed atop pieces of toast (Joe's homemade bread, by the way!) that had more of the garlic and herb goat cheese spread on it.

All of the berries were used for the drunken berry dessert.

Carrots have plans to be either stir-fried or roasted along with slices of tofu, probably tomorrow night.

Drunken Summer Berries
adapted loosely from a couple of Cooking Light recipes (this one and that one)
serves 4-6

About 6 cups fresh berries - I used strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries (my blueberries were thawed from frozen and did great, but I'm not sure if that would work with all types of berries)
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 cup orange flavored liqueur, such as Patron Citronge or Grand Marnier, or any citrus-flavored liqueur
Handful torn mint leaves
Greek yogurt or whipped cream for topping

Gently rinse and dry the berries. If using strawberries, hull and quarter them.

Combine the berries with the powdered sugar and the liqueur. Chill for about 30 minutes or so.

Gently stir in the mint using a spatula. Spoon the berry mixture into individual serving dishes, top with a dollop of yogurt or whipped cream, and serve.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cassoulet with Lots of Vegetables

This hearty bean stew is a great recipe to make with summer produce. It uses tons of veggies, white beans, and a little bit of meat.

I used to make a Rachael Ray cassoulet type recipe that, while delicious, called for three pounds of meat and claimed to serve four (talk about hefty portions!). This Mark Bittman recipe makes about six servings and calls for just one pound of meat. I used one good quality sweet Italian sausage link and 3/4 of a pound of duck breast. When you're only buying one pound of meat, you can afford to splurge a little and buy something interesting! 

CSA Week 12:

In the box: 1 bunch carrots, 1 basket grape tomatoes, 2 pounds Sweet Girl tomatoes, 2 pounds French fingerling potatoes, 1 head garlic, 1 bunch basil, 1 pound summer squash, 1 basket blackberries, 1 basket strawberries

Let's see, this week I made pesto with the basil and used it as a dip for carrot sticks, grape tomatoes, and snow peas (from our garden). I admit, with no shame, to eating the last of the pesto with a spoon. :-)

Almost all of the tomatoes, all of the squash, and some of the carrots were used to make the cassoulet.

I used most of the potatoes and some of the garlic to make an awesome potato and black bean dish (recipe from one of my new favorite blogs, The Edible Perspective). I made a little more than it said so I added more of all the spices, not really measuring anything. It turned out fabulous - we just piled the potatoes and black bean mixture into bowls and topped with chopped tomato, sliced scallion, cilantro, and a little sharp cheddar cheese. Sometime I'm also going to have to make her vegetable filling from that same post!

Cassoulet with Lots of Vegetables
adapted from Mark Bittman - Food Matters
serves 6

Notes: From personal experience, I can tell you that this soup freezes well and goes great with a side salad for lunch.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Italian sausages, bone-in pork chops, confit duck legs, duck breasts, or a combination
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 leeks or onions, trimmed, washed, and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch lengths
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium zucchinis or 1 small head green cabbage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chopped tomatoes, with their juice (canned are fine)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
4 cups cooked white beans (canned are ok), drained and liquid reserved in any case
2 cups stock, dry red wine, bean cooking liquid, or water, plus more as needed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the meat and cook for about 10 minutes, turning as needed, until deeply browned on all sides. Remove from pan and drain off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat (add more olive oil if it doesn't look like 2 tablespoons).

Turn the heat down to medium. Add the garlic, leeks or onions, carrots, celery, and zucchini or cabbage. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or so until the vegetables have softened.

Add the tomatoes and their liquid, the reserved meats, and the herbs. Bring to a boil. Add the beans. Bring to a boil again, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to a steady but gentle simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes. If the mixture becomes thick during this time, add a little more liquid. It should thicken up and the vegetables should get very soft and tender.

Remove the meat and place on a cutting board. Remove bones and skin as needed, then chop the meat into chunks, whatever size you want, and return to the pot, along with the cayenne. Cook for a few more minutes, just to warm the meat back up. Taste, adjust the seasoning as necessary, and serve.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chunky Fresh Tomato Salsa

One of these days I want to can my own salsa, but for now making a batch at a time is what works for me. We made this salsa to go in burritos filled with our favorite America's Test Kitchen beef taco filling. It's just a great, basic fresh salsa recipe that you could put on practically anything.

CSA Week 11:

In the box: 1 green leaf lettuce, 1 bunch carrots, 1 basket cherry tomatoes, 2 pounds Sweet Girl tomatoes, 2 pounds red potatoes, 1 head garlic, 1 bunch cilantro, 1 basket blackberries, 1 basket strawberries

We were out of town for most of the week, so we didn't do anything super spectacular with this week's haul. We continued to work through the lettuce from last week in addition to this week with side salads at dinner and big salads at lunch. The carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, and berries made good simple snacks.

I made a great lunch salad this past week that I was pretty proud of. I used lettuce, cherry tomatoes, feta, homemade pesto, sliced chicken sausage, and boiled red potatoes. It was very filling and flavorful, with a good mix of carbs, proteins, and veggies. I boiled the potatoes the night before, packed things in separate containers, and tossed them together when I was ready to eat it. I could have eaten the whole salad cold, but since I had access to a microwave I warmed up the potatoes and sausage before adding it to the salad.

For the rest of the potatoes, I made a potato and green bean side dish using a recipe from my friend Sarah. You just toss together steamed green beans and warm boiled potatoes with a dressing that included olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, dried oregano, minced garlic and finely chopped onion. What did I have with it? A hot dog sans bun. Sometimes I'm more interested in planning the side dish so the entree/protein ends up being an afterthought. On another note, I highly recommend Applegate Farms beef hot dogs, they have the best flavor of any hot dog I've ever had. I signed up for their email newsletter so I can get coupons.

About half of the Sweet Girl tomatoes and some of the cilantro were used to make the salsa recipe below, and the rest were used for a batch of pico de gallo that I made ahead and brought along to enjoy with our friends over the weekend. 

Chunky Fresh Tomato Salsa
adapted from Rick Bayless - Mexican Everyday
makes about 2 cups

Notes: Don't even bother making this unless you can use ripe (preferably local) summer tomatoes.

1 garlic clove, peeled
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (such as 2 serranos or 1 jalapeno), stemmed and halved, remove some or all of the seeds if you want it less spicy
1 pound ripe round tomatoes
1/3 cup loosely packed roughly chopped cilantro
1 large green onion, roots and wilted outer leaves removed, chopped onto small pieces
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (or light-flavored vinegar)
Salt, to taste

Turn on your food processor. While it's running, drop the garlic and chile pieces in one at a time, allowing each piece to get finely chopped before adding the next. Turn off the processor and remove the lid. Chop about half of the tomatoes into quarters and add them to the processor, along with the cilantro. Pulse 4-6 times, until the mixture resembles a coarse puree. Scrape this mixture into a bowl.

Chop the rest of the tomatoes into 1/4-inch pieces and add to the bowl, along with the green onion. Taste and season with the lime juice (or vinegar) and salt (I used a generous 1/2 teaspoon). Stir to combine.

This salsa is best if eaten with an hour or two, but you can also store it in the fridge for a few hours if you want to make it ahead of time.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tomatoes Stuffed with Summer Corn Salad

We weren't super hungry for dinner one night, so I made this super fast appetizer as our main meal, using lots of the fresh produce from the CSA.

CSA Week 10:

In the box: 1 green leaf lettuce, 1 red bottle onion, 2 pounds tomatoes, 4 ears of corn!, 2 pounds mixed summer squash, 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, 1 basket blackberries, 1 basket strawberries.

We had a killer grill fest one night. We grilled burgers (which we ate wrapped in lettuce leaves, both to cut down on carbs and because sometimes it's hard to justify buying a whole package of hamburger buns for two burgers). We also grilled all of the summer squash, sliced in planks. Inside, on the stove, we cooked all of the corn, and we made oven fries with about half of the potatoes (America's Test Kitchen has a fabulous recipe).

The other half of the potatoes were used to make a delicious Indian dish that I will blog about later!

The leftover corn, red onion, and tomatoes were used for the stuffed tomato appetizers.

The leftover corn salad and leftover tomatoes (chopped) were combined with some of the lettuce to make a substantial salad for lunch the next day.

The blackberries were some of the biggest I'd ever seen! I wish I'd done something special with them, but I just put them on yogurt like I do with all the fruit we get.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Summer Corn Salad
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens - June 2010
about 16 small stuffed tomatoes

Notes: This is a pretty loose recipe. It wasn't even a formal recipe to begin with; in the magazine it's pretty much just a side note. So all amounts are approximate, depending on how many you want to make and what ingredients you have on hand. I had just two ear's worth of leftover kernels to work with, so I compensated with some frozen corn, and because of that I sauteed it in butter along with the red onion first. I think lime juice would be a great addition to this salad, if you have a lime on hand.

8 small tomatoes, sliced in half along their equator, insides hollowed out
About 2 cups of corn kernels, from leftover corn on the cob and/or frozen
1/2 medium red onion (or 1 small), chopped
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (whatever you have)
generous 1/2 cup crumbled feta (goat cheese or queso fresco would be great too)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

If using frozen corn, saute for a few minutes in a little butter, adding the red onion if you want (especially if you don't care for raw onion). Set aside in a medium bowl and allow to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.

Add to the corn mixture the herbs, feta, oil, salt, and pepper and toss to combine. Spoon mixture into tomato cups, and serve.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Moroccan-Style Chickpea Soup

I know what you're thinking. It's August. It's way too hot for soup. And you're probably right. But, hear me out. I work in a very air-conditioned building and sometimes I DO want a bowl of hot soup for lunch, even in August. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. Also, Joe wanted to go out to dinner that night, but I wanted to cook and use up some CSA veggies. So we compromised: he made this soup while I did my TurboFire workout, and then we went out to dinner afterwards. Best of both worlds! When we came home, the soup had cooled and we portioned it into small containers to freeze. I've been enjoying this soup all week long. 

CSA Week 9:

In the box: 1 red leaf lettuce, 1/2 pound spinach, 2 pounds tomatoes, 1 basket grape tomatoes, 1 pound summer squash, 1 bunch basil, 1 head garlic, 1 bunch radishes, 1 basket raspberries.

This soup used the remaining pound of potatoes from last week, and some of the summer squash from this week.

We ate lots of salads this week topped with grape tomatoes, chopped regular tomatoes, basil, and spinach. I followed Barefoot and in the Kitchen's method of prepping the lettuce ahead of time and it helped save a lot of time during the week. I tore lettuce and spinach into pieces, washed them in the salad spinner, and put them into a plastic bag with a paper towel. I only prepped about half of the lettuce this way, then a few days later, I did another batch, since lettuce seems to last longer intact as a head of lettuce than it does torn into pieces.

We made a veggie pizza topped with pesto made from the basil, sliced zucchini and red onion (sauteed first), sliced tomato, and slices of fresh mozzarella. That same night I chopped the rest of the squash and tomatoes to save for a weekend breakfast burritio. We sauteed the veggies, added salsa, black beans, leftover Mexican rice, shredded cheese, and wrapped it in a tortilla.

I don't really care for regular radishes plain; they are pretty spicy for me. But this week I discovered that a great way to cook radishes is to first cook bacon, then saute sliced radishes in the leftover bacon fat in the pan. So good!

Moroccan-Style Chickpea Soup
adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
serves 4-6

Notes: They recommend serving with "plenty of Tabasco". Nice idea, but we totally forgot to do this. We also forgot to mash some of the potatoes with a spoon to thicken the soup, but since we froze the soup, they got a little mashed during the thawing process, so it worked out. If you are planning on freezing some or all of the soup too, you could probably skip the mashing step as well.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika (we only had hot smoked paprika, so we used that)
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 (15.5 ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed
1 pound red potatoes (about 3 medium), scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley and/or mint
Pepper, to taste
Lemon wedges and Tabasco, for serving

Using a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion is softened. Add the garlic, paprika, saffron, ginger, and cumin. Cook, stirring, for just 30 seconds, so that they become fragrant. Add the chickpeas, potatoes, tomatoes (including their juices), zucchini, and broth. Stir to combine. Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork tender.

Mash some of the potatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon to thicken the soup. Off heat, stir in the fresh herbs. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve with lemon wedges and Tabasco.
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