Archive for August, 2010

Here are some (possibly) interesting things that happened in my kitchen this week.

Southern supper

I’ll admit I’ve never been a fan of Southern cooking. Since I’ve been married, I’ve been dragged drug to too many meat-and-threes with mushy, overcooked vegetables. But I’m learning to do a lot better by my CSA veggies. Check out this supper from last Sunday.

local cowpeas and heritage rice, stir-fried squash, and mighty fine green beans

For the green beans, I started with a scrap of leftover pork chop and browned it with some onion.

Then I added the beans and cooked them on low for about 20 minutes. The pork made the beans great, but it absolutely ruined the pork. Bizarrely, utterly tasteless. Guess that’s why people use ham hocks. Lesson learned: whatever pork you use to flavor Southern-style green beans, take it out before serving.

The squash was an all-CSA affair.

yellow squash, cornmeal, savory, and onion

Savory is an awesome herb with a delicious flavor that’s kind of peppery. You know how people tell you to cut back on salt by using more herbs? And how you look at them like they’re nuts? With savory, it might just work. Plus, its thin leaves last in the fridge far longer than most herbs. No need to put them in water, even.

We finished off supper with nectarine mini-cobblers topped with yogurt and brandy-nectarine sauce. You know the rule: anything you put yogurt on is health food.

I love that rule.


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This week’s CSA delivery

In this week’s box was more fruit and other yummy things.

  • plums
  • apples
  • blueberries

(The list on my box said peaches, but aren’t peaches fuzzy? That’s why I think these are plums. Either plums or unfuzzy peaches. They’ll probably become cobbler, so it won’t matter.)

  • yellow squash
  • green beans

The green beans had some caked-on red clay (definitely local beans!), so I soaked them in some warm saltwater, rinsed them, dried them, and put them back in their bag. No scrubbing required.

  • winter savory
  • lemon verbena
  • eggs
  • lime basil

I’m drinking a terrific cup of lemon verbena-lime basil tea right now. I steeped 4 crushed verbena leaves plus the top of one of the lime basil stems in 2 cups of boiling water for 5 minutes. It’s even a little strong. Next time, I’ll use 2 lemon verbena leaves and let it steep longer. I’m stingy with the verbena because it dries so perfectly. No rush using it.

The winter savory should be good for awhile, too. I’m planning on throwing some in the green beans and in fresh cowpeas I scored this weekend.

The lime basil must be seen to more quickly than the other two. I’m going to take Fran’s recommendation and add some to the yellow squash. I’m also planning a lemony shrimp dish tomorrow evening, and the lime basil should be dreamy with that. Whatever’s left will make more tea!

  • beautiful lettuce!
  • tomatoes!

I’m headed out to supper tonight, and Chris and James are staying in and feasting on two stuffed pork chops (Thanks, Lucy!) and a salad made with this week’s beautiful lettuce and sliced tomatoes. It’s not 4th & Swift, but I think they’ll be happy.

  • ribeye steak!
  • spice rub

Wow! Ribeye – what a treat! I’ve never cooked ribeye before, but a little googling points to pan searing it and then cooking it on a lower heat. Sounds simple and delicious! Maybe use the spice rub on it, too. Don’t think I’ll get to it this week, so in the freezer it goes. But not for long.

I also ordered a few things from the online store.

  • garlic
  • watercress
  • rice
  • bread

Watercress is a pain to deal with, but I like the taste. I’m going to chop it up and make a spread with cream cheese and a little bleu cheese and serve it on crackers for light lunches along with beautiful apples.

Things I learned last week

This eggplant recipe is great. Sour cream subs in for goat cheese just fine, and any fresh herbs will do. The honey part of the vinaigrette is not necessary when using Asian eggplant. In fact, I think it detracts a little bit.

Mini-peach/plum cobblers are a big hit. The recipe’s a snap once you’ve done it a couple of times, and I think the cobblers get even better after they’ve sat in the fridge a few days. Now that’s a winning recipe.

The homemade lye soap is doing nice things for my complexion.

Whole chickens take forever to defrost in the refrigerator. Overnight does not cut it.

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Last night, Chris and I had a supper of broiled eggplant with goat cheese, fresh tomato, and basil.

I followed this recipe except I cut ¼ inch instead of ¾ inch rounds (whoops!) and used basil in place of all the other herbs.

Tomato, basil, and goat cheese - oh, my!


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Muffin-sized mini-cobblers!

For a few weeks, I made peach muffins with the beautiful peaches from my CSA share. (Chris and I aren’t big fans of the fresh peach.) But then I started getting a hankering for cobbler. I wanted to combine the convenience of muffins with the yumminess of cobbler. After browsing through some recipes, I didn’t see any reason one couldn’t make muffin-sized mini-cobblers. This week, I finally did it.

I started by defrosting some chopped peaches and plums from last month. (more…)

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Here three things I learned this week

Mustard greens with raisins and walnuts is as good as kale with raisins and pine nuts.

One of my favorite recipes is kale with raisins and pine nuts. I’m thrilled to report that this recipe works just as well with mustard greens, raisins, and walnuts.

I had planned just to sub in mustard greens for kale but then found I didn’t have any pine nuts. Bunch of walnuts, though. At first I was nervous about using walnuts, but then I remembered that sometimes people make pesto with walnuts and that baklava comes in pine nut and walnut varieties. Worth a try!

So far, so good.

We were very pleased with the results and are still in shock that we actually enjoy greens now. (Collards don’t count.)

baked butternut squash, ciabatta, feta cheese, and mustard greens with raisins and walnuts

Frozen vegetables aren’t as tasty as fresh ones.

I freeze vegetables from my CSA portion when I don’t get a chance to use them fresh or sometimes when I’m just worn out on a certain veggie after a long, productive season. (more…)

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Here’s what I got this week. You can definitely tell how hot it’s been by the decrease in veggie production. The weather today seems better, so here’s hoping we’ll be rolling in tomatoes again soon.

  • popping corn
  • eggs
  • goat cheese
  • Dragon’s Blood lye soap

You know production is slow when the soap comes out. This bar’s scent is nice and not  particularly feminine, so everyone in the house can use it. Handmade lye soap has the natural glycerin left in, and that can be good for your skin. Update: I used the soap last night and really like it!

  • basil
  • Asian eggplant
  • a beautiful tomato!

Be sure to wipe down your eggplant and turn the plastic bag inside out so they’ll keep longer. Don’t you love the chubby eggplant? He’s got great personality.

Tonight, I’m planning on broiling the eggplant, basil, goat cheese, and possibly the tomato somehow. Something like this, but broiled instead of grilled.  (more…)

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Late summer suppers are so much fun – minimal cooking and molto fresh ingredients.

I have two pints of fresh figs from today’s CSA delivery. While I had planned for baked figs and goat cheese, feta was what was in the fridge. The other half of supper was pasta tossed in olive oil, lemon juice, toasted walnuts, chopped basil, and minced garlic.

the stars of this evening’s entertainment

I baked the figs topped with feta at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. For the pasta, I heated 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil on the stove over low heat while the figs baked.  I had leftover spaghetti, so I heated that in the microwave and then mixed the pasta, warmed oil, and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.

The fresh minced garlic was a little strong for me, so Chris loved it. Next time, I’ll warm the garlic in the oil in the hopes that it will be a little milder. Overall, though, we were very pleased with our light, late summer supper and the bottle of Prosecco that went with it.

I think I’ll bake the second pint of figs with cream cheese instead of feta, go overboard on the honey, and call it dessert.

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8/11 – Figs!

This week’s produce was a nice combination of stuff. The basil, blueberries, and okra are summer favorites, and the butternut squash and figs are treats that make me think of fall.

  • basil
  • butternut squash
  • okra

  • grits
  • coffee
  • blueberries
  • figs

  • mustard greens

  • eggs
  • green cabbage
  • sweet onions

I also bought a few things from the online store.

  • ciabatta
  • honey
  • onions
  • garlic
  • figs

Aren’t the figs beautiful? They have this wonderful old-world oil painting look. I plan to bake mine with goat cheese, like this. Here’s another option – fig, sweet potato, and wild rice stuffing. If I didn’t already have fig plans, I might try this with the butternut squash in place of sweet potatoes. If you’re looking for more of a dessert, consider Cajun Fig Cake.

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The idea

Sunday, I pulled out all the vegetables I’d frozen over the last several months and made vegetable stock. I left a couple of bags of blanched green beans, a bag of chopped celery, and a bag of corn. Everything else got thrown in the pot.

The ingredients

The frozen assembly consisted of spinach, kale, beet greens and stems, green beans, celery scraps, Shiitake and oyster mushroom stems, Swiss chard stems, and fennel.

I also added some chopped onion and garlic cloves.

For stock, onions don’t need to be peeled or chopped. However, this onion had some powdery mold on its outermost layer, so I didn’t have a choice.

The process

First, I browned the vegetables in batches. The problem with frozen vegetables, however, is there’s a lot of moisture to get through before you get any browning action. Maybe I’ll defrost and drain them next time. And possibly roast them in the oven instead of on the stove.

Second, the more-or-less browned veggies got tossed in the stock pot, which was then filled three quarters full of water.

After bringing it to boil, I let the pot simmer for about an hour. Then I strained the stock and put it back in the pot to cook uncovered until it had boiled down to half as much. It’s easier to store concentrated stock.

To freeze the stock, I poured it into ice cube trays. (more…)

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How not to use a corn stripper

While cleaning upon our return from vacation, I stumbled across the instructions for the corn stripper.

So I totally see now how Kitchen Kung Fu got gored. These instructions are dumb and dangerous. I must have either missed or ignored them because here’s how I’ve been doing it.

First, shuck the ear, but don’t remove the stem. It’s handy to hold on to.

Then brace the top of the ear in the bottom of a bowl, like this.

Works for paper towel rolls, too!

Then you can push downward with more force, more safely. You have a lot more control pushing down than pushing up, and your non-cutting hand stays out of the danger zone.

Hope this helps – stir-fried sweet corn is too good to miss!

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