Posts in category: Eats and Drinks

Jul

12
2016

Ratatouille

Marissa     Eats and Drinks         0    

Like many people, I used to struggle with what to do with eggplant. But over the years of growing it, I have quite a list of favorite recipes. While ratatouille contains many other bounties of the summer garden, my version strongly features eggplant. And it’s easier than some methods I’ve seen!

ratatoullie3

Eggplant is in full swing in the garden right now. Even though we only have about 40 feet of it planted, we are harvesting a lot every day. So it’s ratatouille time! Each summer I make pots and pots and freeze it for the winter. And of course eat a ton. While I do have a specific recipe, I tend to change amounts to match whatever we have on hand at the time. The recipe is quite forgiving!

Ratatouille

serves 4

1 lb eggplant
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 tbsp thyme, chopped
1 tbsp oregano, chopped
1/4 cup vegetable stock
Salt to taste
2 tbsp parsley, chopped

I use any eggplant for the recipe. I might peel big globe eggplants if they have been sitting in the fridge a bit too long. Slender Asian eggplants usually have tender enough skin to not bother. Dice the eggplant to about 1/2″, place in a colander and salt. Putting a plate with a weight on top helps as well. Let drain for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Our sweet pepper plants are being sooo slow this year, so I grabbed a bag of chopped and frozen ones from last year. Heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the onions until soft and fragrant, 5-10 minutes. Add the peppers and cook for another 5 minutes. In the beginning, the dish is very bright and colorful!

ratatoullie2

While the onions and peppers cook, rinse the eggplant and let drain.

Add the eggplant, garlic, tomatoes, thyme, oregano and stock. Sometimes I don’t have enough thyme. I’ll sub basil, marjoram or even a little rosemary. Just use 2 tbsp total of herbs. Also, if the tomatoes are extra juicy (heirloom ones usually are), I’ll leave out the stock and just add salt.

ratatoullie1

Bring the mix to a simmer, turn down and cook for 30 minutes, until everything is tender and the flavors are melded. Season with salt to taste and serve with parsley sprinkled on top.

So…what to eat this with?! We love it on top of pasta or rice, with some sharp cheese added. Or just as a side dish. Or even cold the next day. I’ll put it through the food processor to chop fine and it is as a spread on crackers, or crusty bread.

rataouille4

 

0 comments

Feb

13
2014

Ack! Mustard Greens!

Marissa     Eats and Drinks         0    

I love most winter greens – kale, collards, arugula, Swiss chard, turnips greens, all that. But mustard greens? I’ve never been a fan. Sure, I can have them sauteed in with a mix but they are by far my least favorite of the bunch. Guess what? Bumper crop of mustard greens this year. Sigh.

Mustard plants growing in the garden

As I’ve done in the past, I challenged myself to come up with new and delicious ways to use this bountiful crop. My beet poppy seed muffins proved to me that seemingly insurmountable odds of turning a vegetable from something hated to loved was possible (my husband can’t stand beets but ate those). My stewed cucumbers proved that vegetables can also be used in ways that we don’t typically expect. Cooked cucumbers? They are delicious. So onto the mustard greens challenge.

I tried several of the usual ways to cook them – sauteed with this or that (bacon fat, butter, olive oil, etc). Not impressed. Still unpleasantly bitter with an acrid bite. Then I stumbled across a recipe for mustard greens pesto. I didn’t even open the link the first time I saw it pop up on a google search. Raw mustard greens? Blech. A few days later, I was curious and decided to try it. I looked at many of the recipes online. They used various nuts – pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, etc. Some used copious amounts of olive oil, some just a scant. And most surprisingly, some used cheese and some DIDN’T. I didn’t know you could make pesto without parmesan. So I came up with what I wanted to try. First attempt NAILED IT. Utterly delicious. Nearly a pound of mustard greens disappeared down our gullets before we knew it.

The recipe is simple (below as well as in our online cookbook) – just five ingredients. I found that I liked to use a mix of mustards – two different mizunas. The green mizuna is very mild, I would even put it on a salad raw. The other – Purple Streaks – is sharp and biting in a pleasant way.

Mustard greens, salt, olive oil, pecans and garlic

The recipe is so simple in fact, that I can hardly take credit for making it. The kitchen elves took over and did all the work for me!

helpers

The result is a bright and luscious pesto with lots of powerful vitamins from the greens and good fats from the pecans and olive oil. And without the cheese, you miss out on saturated fats too!

Mustard Greens Pesto

1 cup pecans
6 cloves garlic (crushed)
½ tsp salt
2 bunches mustard greens, large stems removed (about 12 ounces)
½ cups olive oil

Roast the pecans at 400°F for 5-10 minutes until fragrant. Stir once or twice while checking on them. Let them cool while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

Add pecans and garlic to a food processor and pulse several times to coarsely chop. Add salt and then the greens. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may only be able to add half the greens at a time. Begin to slowly drizzle in the olive oil while blending constantly. Stop to add greens and pack them down occasionally until you have them all in the container. Continue blending until you reach your desired consistency. Add additional salt as desired (I do like another 1/4 tsp or so but I love salt!)

Delicious bowl of healthy goodness

Here’s another link to the recipe in the cookbook. Enjoy!

0 comments

Jul

29
2013

Roselle Jam

Marissa     Eats and Drinks         1    

I’ve always enjoyed a glass of Jamaica tea. That’s “ha-my-ka” as in flor de Jamaica, the Spanish name for a type of Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa). About 10 years ago, I started seeing it more and more in restaurants in the US under the more generic name Hibiscus tea. I’ve also seen it called roselle, or rosella when used as foodstuff in Australia and other countries.

A few years ago, my mom decided to grow some at the farm. It was an experiment and a bit of a novelty. We dried it and used it as tea as always. Then last year, she grew TONS of it. Faced with a mountain of the stuff, we decided to branch out and see what else we could do with it.

Roselle grows into a quite a bush, sometimes topping 6 feet tall and about that in diameter. The bush has a rather demure bloom compared to what most people think of for hibiscus (the bloom looks more like okra if you ask me). After the flower is pollinated, it dries and the seedpod forms with a thick fleshy calyx around it. Er, what’s a calyx? The calyx (or, the collection of sepals) around the petals of a flower are typically a cup-shaped green part. Think of a carnation with that perfect little green cup holding all the petals together. In most flowers, its role ends when the flower wilts and dries up. But in some plants, like the roselle, the calyx continues to grow after the flower dies and forms a thick encasing around the seedpod.

We started harvesting our roselle last September and the dehydrator was working overtime to turn all the fleshy sea creature pods into a storable commodity for our winter tea supply. But one weekend in October, I ventured out of our normal routine.

I couldn’t find an exact recipe for roselle jam (i.e. 2 lbs roselle, 1 cup water, etc). Instead, I found just some basic guidelines. Even though I’ve been making jam/jelly and canning for about 6 years, I haven’t made all that many batches so I like to follow a recipe to the letter. But that just wasn’t going to happen this time. So I just went with it.

Mom cored a “bucket” of roselle (one recipe did specifically call for “one bucket”) saving both the calyx and the seedpods. When we make dried roselle for tea, it’s just the calyx part. I took the goods home and began my adventure.

First, I put all the seedpods in a big stockpot and covered them with cool water. Brought that to a boil and simmered for 15 minutes  – the seedpods were starting to look somewhat cooked at that point.

I strained the seedpods and discarded them. Our ducks weren’t interested but they won’t even eat bread, so the seedpods went on the compost pile. The leftover water is full of pectin – the agent that helps jams and jellies set up and thicken.  I was surprised at how red the water was! I guess just the small coloring on the stem ends is enough.

To this water, I added all the calyxes. At first I wasn’t sure this looked right. It seemed like far too much fruit and not enough water.

But the calyxes are big hollow constructions so within a few minutes, they had softened and began to fall apart. Soon, everything was under the liquid. At this point, I measured the fruit pulp – I had 7 cups.

Most recipes I found called for an equal volume of sugar to fruit. I don’t like super sweet so I figured on using 6 cups of sweetener. And for fun, I used 5 cups of sugar and 1 cup of honey. I added this to the pulp and cooked over very gentle heat until it boiled. It probably took about 10 minutes to boil and then I boiled for 15 minutes until the jam started to look like it was setting on a saucer from the freezer. I’m no good at doing any of the tests for gelling – I’m so worried I’m going to overcook it that I don’t think I’ve ever achieved proper set. Sigh. But on the second batch, I nailed it! Boiling for 25 minutes with about the same amount of pulp made it set up nicely.

The jam has the same flavor as the hibiscus tea (somewhat tart but sweet) and you can taste just a touch of honey. There is also an underlying earthy tone that I had noticed before in the tea until  trying the jam. But now I can recognize it in the tea – it’s somehow amplified in the jam.

I love using the jam for anything. We substituted it for cranberry relish at Thanksgiving and got plenty of compliments. One of our family traidtions is kolache cookies for Christmas filled with various fruit preserves. Last year I did roselle jam and jalepeno jelly. Wonderful!

But my favorite thing to do is just simply eat it with cream cheese on a scone. Perfect treat any time of the day.

We ran out of the jam by springtime but we still have plenty of dried tea left. We won’t be harvesting roselle for a few more months but I plan to make much more jam this year. Can’t wait!

1 comments

May

30
2012

Cucumbers, sour cream and dill

Marissa     Eats and Drinks         0    

While searching for recipes to try out for our online cookbook, I came across three fairly similar ones in the Time Life Foods of the World cookbook series. They are all variations of cucumbers in a sour cream and dill sauce. What to do with these three recipes? Taste test of course!

The three recipes come from Poland, the Baltic States and Germany. While I expected similarities with the English names of the dishes being practically identical, each recipe is quite unique.  One of the ‘joys’ of growing and selling produce is that you get to all the ugly and misshapen vegetables. So I grabbed 6 pounds of cucumbers that had gotten caught in the chicken wire trellis, got a little too bloated or just grew in a funny way.  Then I started on the adventure of finding the best cucumber in sour-cream-and-dill sauce recipe published in the Foods of the World cookbooks.

The Polish recipe, the simplest one, had me peeling, deseeding and slicing the cucumbers paper-thin before salting and allowing to drain for 30 minutes. After that I squeezed all the moisture out I could and dried them thoroughly with kitchen towels and combined the remaining ingredients (sour cream, vinegar, sugar and dill) for the sauce before mixing it all together and putting in the fridge to chill for several hours.

Meanwhile, I got to work on the Baltic recipe – also peeling and deseeding but cutting into 1/2″ pieces. These were marinated in salt and vinegar for 30 minutes before draining and patting dry with towels. This sauce was much more complicated – hard boiled egg yolk, mustard, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, pepper and dill. The egg whites were also sliced thinly and added to the cucumbers. I put this together and also stored it in the fridge while the last dish was being finished.

The German recipe was by far the most complicated, though still an easy preparation. Just like the others, the cucumbers were peeled and deseeded and this time left in large 1″ chunks. I had help from one of our WWOOFers Mary while doing all of this peeling and chopping. There was a typical farm scene going on in the house that day – we were processing piles of vegetables while some other weird activity was occurring at the table. This weekend, it was an experiment to see whether or not you could discern the skeletons of the diatoms that make up diatomaceous earth.

As it turns out, our microscope isn’t powerful enough. Anyway, after the cucumbers were sliced, these two were salted and drained for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I heated butter in a large skillet and sauteed some onions and then made a white sauce in the pan with added flour, milk and sour cream. Once the sauce was thickened, I added the cucumbers and stewed them for about 15 minutes until they were tender. Finally, I added parsley and dill.

With the three dishes complete, I took them out to the harvest house for the crew to try. I had meant to have it all done before the evening work session started, but I missed the mark by about 30 minutes. But I’m sure no one minded the interruption! We all dug in to each dish. I was really surprised how different they were. The simple Polish one was far too salty – something that could easily be remedied upon making it again. But it was rather lack luster. The Baltic dish – the one with the egg yolks and mustard – had a very summery, potato salad sort of taste. It was quite good. But the winner of the majority of the votes was the stewed German dish. I honestly thought that the cooked cucumbers would turn everyone off since it is simply not the way we usually enjoy that vegetable. But it had a rich creamy flavor that was perfectly balanced by the delicate flavor and texture of the cucumbers. So with no question, that recipe has won its spot in our cookbook – Stewed Cucumbers with Sour Cream and Dill.

(left to right: Polish, German, Baltic)

0 comments

May

25
2012

Beet…Muffins

Marissa     Eats and Drinks         2    

Oh yes, you read that right. In my recent endeavor to expand my use of the CSA vegetables, I’ve really been going out on a limb…sometimes to hit face first on the ground! Beets are another one of those vegetables that I love but I tend to use in only two ways – roasted or pickled. I don’t seem to get sick of that but I do realize it’s not for everyone. Roasted beets are really a great thing though – and they then can become another ingredient to add to all sorts of things like salad or muffins. Actually, I didn’t know about the muffins until earlier this week. I saw a recipe, got grossed out, couldn’t stop thinking about it, and simply had to give it a shot.

I based it off several recipes I found online. None of them quite fit what I was looking for. Some used as little as 1/4 cup of roasted beet puree and said that it still tasted like beets. I figured if you are going to “sneak” a vegetable into a baked good, you either don’t taste it. or if you do there is enough of it in there to count. I don’t think 1 teaspoon of beet per muffin counts as diddly. So I developed my own recipe using an ample quantity of beets. Other recipes called for ingredients that I don’t usually have around the kitchen – coconut oil, quinoa flour, etc – and many of them were chocolate based. I wanted something that was actually a breakfast food and not dessert, as well as being able to be made in the average kitchen without a trip to the grocery. I thought it would either be a delicious addition to the cookbook or at least a hilarious blog post about my miserable culinary adventure of the day. Hmmm…thus I present to you, my Beet Poppy Seed Muffins.

The first few steps were easy enough, I got all the dry ingredients measured and mixed and the wet ingredients into the bowl of the stand mixer. Looked just fine really.

But then after mixing, the first doubts really hit home. I mean, I knew this stuff was going to be red. Beets stain everything. But I was pretty sure I couldn’t pass this off as a regular muffin to my beet-hating husband. Ah well, at least he tastes my experiments if not always enjoys them!

I usually get to make breakfast before the rest of the household wakes up, but at this point my 2 year old Willa came waltzing out of the bedroom and wanted to help. I quickly put her to work tasting things. She LOVED the puree. Of course, beets are already sweet and the additional sugar couldn’t have hurt. So she enjoyed a pre-muffin snack while I went on with the project.

I added the dry ingredients and found it to be so nice to see exactly when all the flour was mixed in. There’s no chance of accidentally leaving behind clumps of it – the batter is a serious shade of fuchsia. I’ve heard people say not to wear white while dealing with beets, but I hadn’t realized I was being quite so color coordinated until I downloaded the pictures!

With everything done, I was ready to put them in the oven. I took one last look at the pan and Chad got this shot of me…can you tell that I’m not really sure about these things?!?!

But in the oven they went and a mere 20 minutes later, we were faced with actually having to taste the concoction. I tasted the ones without poppy seeds first. Wow, it was beety. I love beets, so I did really like the muffin. But Chad took one bite and was confident he didn’t want one for breakfast. But then I pinched off a piece of the poppy seed one. What a difference in the flavor! The poppy seeds mellowed out the earthiness of the beet, almost making that flavor disappear completely. Chad was happy to sit down and eat one of those!

So the experiment was a success. I thought the ones with the poppy seeds were really delicious (ahem…I ate three…). I actually used up the last of my beets for this year so I’m happy to move on to other things. Like that pile of summer squash threatening to overflow the crisper. The plants at the Nickle Farm have started their first flush and they are being quite generous. Expect plenty of squash this summer!

(just another link to the Beet Poppy Seed Muffin recipe posted in our online cookbook!)

2 comments