Big Bowl of Luscious

We’re expecting 2-5 inches of snow this evening.  What better than to make something warm, comforting and downright luscious; homemade Black Bean Soup.  Typically, the approach is to add savory ingredients, and a little heat.  The solution to this is garlic, wine, spices and peppers in varying amounts.  I seriously recommend using dried beans, rather than canned for two reasons:  1) Canned beans can’t absorb the subtlety of spices and peppers like dried beans over low heat and time and 2) It’s all about texture.  You want a combination of cooked savory beans and bean puree that creates a mouthful of yum.

The heat in this soup is accomplished two ways; canned and pureed chipotles and fresh jalapenos.  Chipotles are intense, so a little goes a long way.  I use a moderate amount with the option for guests to add additional puree if they are so inclined. Every time you consider ingredients, you increase the yum factor.  So for example, homemade chicken stock to canned, Mexican oregano to Italian or Greek.  You might not think it makes a difference, but it does.  Also your garnishes add flavor in an astonishing way.  Quick pickled red onions, avocado, sour cream or Mexican crema and of course fresh cilantro.  This combination of flavors and textures are sure to create a soup of extraordinary depth and flavor.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 small (7-ounce) can of chipotle chilies in adobo
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup red wine (I use Shiraz or Cabernet)
  • 1 pound of dry black beans, soaked overnight (I like Valentine or Black Turtle)*
  • 2 quarts chicken stock, homemade if possible
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 2 teaspoons Epazote (I find mine at Penzey’s)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Red wine vinegar, to taste

FOR THE PICKLED ONIONS AND GARNISHES:

  • 1 small red onion, peeled and sliced vertically
  • Kosher salt
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Sour cream or Mexican crema
  • Whole fresh cilantro leaves
  • Sliced avocado

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DIRECTIONS:

  1.  In a small food processor, puree your can of chipotles until smooth, scape into a container, and set aside.
  2. In a large heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering.  Add carrots, onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, 5-8 minutes.
  3. Pour in wine and let simmer until pan is almost dry and vegetables are coated; about 8-10 minutes.  Add jalapenos and cook, stirring, just until softened, about 2 minutes.  Push vegetables out to the edges of the pot and dollop 2 generous teaspoons of chipotle puree in the center.  Let fry for a minute and then stir together with the vegetables.
  4. Add drained beans, stock, oregano and bay leaves.  Stir, bring to a boil, and let boil for 10-15 minutes.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, partly covered, stirring occasionally and adding hot water as needed to keep the soup liquid and runny not sludgy.  Continue cooking until beans are just softened and fragrant, 1-2 hours.  Add salt and pepper and keep cooking until beans are soft.
  5. Meanwhile, make the pickled onions.  In a small bowl, combine sliced onions, lime juice and a generous sprinkling of salt.  Let soften at room temperature until crunchy and tart, about 30 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Squeeze dry in paper towels and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. Adjust the texture of the soup.  Remove 2 cups of beans to a quart Mason jar, and with an immersion blender puree until smooth.  Return bean puree to soup pot.
  7. Adjust seasoning by adding 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, and additional salt.
  8. Serve in deep soup bowls, garnishing with sour cream, pickled onions, cilantro leaves and sliced avocado.

Serves 6-8 with leftovers

“To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night, all you really need is soup.” — Laurie Colwin

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Cabbage Rolls Revisited

Once in a while I like to re-post a blog that seems particularly timely.  This originated back in 2011.  We currently have in our possession a large head of cabbage that was begging to be used in something tasty.  This is it.

I love cabbage rolls.  My mother-in-law Elsa made them for me the first time in the early 80’s.  she mixed beef and pork together with onions and rice, placed them in cabbage leaves and tied them with thread.  She called this peasant-food.  Her son John and I called it heaven.  The first time I tried making cabbage rolls I was surprise just how bad I was at getting the leaves separated from the head in one piece.  I kept saying, “It can’t be that hard!”  I decided to get out of the box and approach it differently.  Why not turn it into a casserole I thought?  It would be less time-consuming and we could enjoy it more often.  While I was getting out of the box, I decided to use ground lamb, different spices and feta for a different take on it completely.

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Assembling the ingredients

Doing the cabbage ‘rolls’ as a casserole allowed me to follow my own whimsy.  I could shake it up a bit with non-traditional spices and be able to enjoy more cabbage in the process.

Lots more cabbage!

Lots more cabbage!

Cabbage and Lamb Casserole:

  • 1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 lbs), core removed, halved and sliced into 1/2 inch sections
  • 1 lb grass-fed ground lamb
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large farm-fresh egg
  • 8 oz (1 cup) crumbled local feta
  • 1/2 cup short-grain rice, such as Arborio
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped (11/2 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (I use our own canned tomatoes)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (I also used homemade)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a 13×9 inch casserole dish with ghee.
  2. Cut cabbage in half, core, then slice in 1/2 inch wedges.  Place the wedges in casserole dish so they overlap each other in two rows.
  3. In a large bowl, use your hand to combine the lamb, onion, egg, rice, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, feta, cumin, fennel, salt and pepper.  Place mixture on top of cabbage, leaving a 1 inch space round the sides of the casserole so that the cabbage shows through.
  4. Combine the tomatoes and chicken broth in a medium bowl, then pour the mixture over the meat.  Cover with foil (shiny side down).
  5. Bake covered for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.  Let stand 15 minutes.

Serves 6

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

New Traditions!

New Traditions!

“A smiling face is half the meal.”  —Latvian quote

Smooth As Silk

Val and I are not big dessert eaters; but there are occasions when it seems just right.  I love a good fruit pie or tart; and would never turn down a homemade scone or brownie.  But what will really get my attention is something that the texture alone is worth the calories.  I love Creme Brule or Pots de Creme; but the real deal is a flan.  It is always something I look for on a dessert menu; yet I have never attempted one at home.  Well, I’m happy to say, “No more!”  It is surprisingly easy to make and looks so beautiful on a platter surrounded by berries.  This can be made in a loaf pan or a 1 quart souffle dish.  You can even divide the recipe into 4 individual ramekins.  For our purposes today I will stick to a loaf pan.

One of the important things to remember is that you do have to make it at least one day ahead.  I actually prefer two days, as I find it easier to unmold and is beautifully creamy yet firm.   I also enjoy putting a tablespoon of Bourbon in it.  This adds a deep, rich element.  This optional however.  If you decide no on the Bourbon, add an additional 2 teaspoons of vanilla.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2/3 cups cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs, plus 5 egg yolks (I use farm fresh eggs from the farmers market)
  • 1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12-oz) can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Bourbon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Adjust your oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In a small heavy saucepan, stir together the sugar and 1/4 cup water until sugar is completely moistened.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, without stirring, until the mixture begin to turn golden.  At this step gently swirl the pan, and continue to cook until the mixture looks like the color of honey.  Remove the pan from the heat and continue swirling until the sugar turns an amber color, about 20 seconds more.  Carefully swirl in 2 tablespoons warm tap water until incorporated.  Be careful as your mixture will bubble and steam.
  3. Pour caramel into an 8-1/2 x 4 1/2 -inch loaf pan (or whatever vessel you have decided to use);  Do not scrape out the saucepan.  Your caramel will solidify in the loaf pan after you pour it (it’s supposed to).  It will soften up again as it bakes.  Set the loaf pan aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and yolks until combine.  Add the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, half-and-half, Bourbon, vanilla and salt and whisk until incorporated.  Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer over an other bowl (you will be surprised when you see your bits of egg).  We do this to guarantee that your flan will have the ideal texture.  Pour the strained custard into your loaf pan over the set caramel.  Cover the loaf pan tightly with aluminum foil.
  5. Place the loaf pan in the center of a high-sided roasting pan to make a water bath or bain marie.  Place the nested pans in the oven; then, using a tea kettle or pitcher, pour hot water around the loaf pan until it reaches about halfway up the side of the loaf pan.  Bake for 75 to 90 minutes, until the custard is set around the edges but still a bit jiggly in the center.  The custard continues to cook as it sets completely.  Carefully remove the pans from the oven,  Remove the foil and leave the flan in the water bath for 1 hour to cool.
  6. Remove the loaf pan from the water bath and wipe dry.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight or up to 4 days.
  7. To unmold flan, carefully slide a sharp knife around the edges of the pan.  Invert on a platter with a raised rim (to hold your liquid caramel), by holding it upside down, then turn your platter over.  If your flan doesn’t release immediately, let sit for a minute or two.  Once the flan is released remove your loaf pan, and with a silicone spatula, scrape the residual caramel onto the platter.  Arrange berries around the flan.  Slice flan, adding sauce and berries around each slice.  Leftovers (if there are any) can be covered loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Serves 8-10

 

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“Life is uncertain.  Eat dessert first!”  –Jacques Torres

Chutney, Chutney, Bang, Bang

I’m in love.  With chutney’s that is.  These are marvels of Indian cuisine.  Indian chutney;s vary widely from region to region.  Chutney is a combination of sugar (sweetness) and vinegar (acidity) and is the hallmark of preserved chutneys.  This week I made Asian Pear and Dried Cherry Chutney.  We have 20 Asian pear trees on our farm.  We chose these fruit trees as they are the one fruit tree that you can grow without chemical sprays; and this is largely true if you can get past the slight imperfections on the surface of the skin.  We certainly can, as well as many of our customers.

We have two varieties of Asian pears, Shinsui and Shinseiki.  I used Shinsui for this chutney.  It is medium in size, firm even when cooked, and both juicy and aromatic.  I love this chutney so much I was drinking the juice.  Wow.  Think chicken, duck or pork.  It is easily preserved in a water bath canning system and makes a great holiday gift.

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ASIAN PEAR AND DRIED CHERRY CHUTNEY

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 heaping cups Asian pears, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh gingerroot
  • 1 teaspoon hot ground curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, uncover, 40-45 minutes or until slightly thickened and pears are tender, stirring occasionally.

2.  Fill sterilized 4 oz or 8 oz canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Process in                    water bath for 15 minutes.

Yield: 8-4 oz or 4 8 oz mason jars

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“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”  –unknown

Autumn Leaves

It is cool and has been pouring since yesterday evening, with no sign of letting up anytime soon.  The vantage point from my desk is perfect for watching both weather and nature.  The current on the lake is from the north, and with each puff of breeze, leaves are letting go and baptizing the ground.  It is gray, and natural to turn inward; checking in on one’s feelings, hopes and dreams.

My personality is one of deep feeling.  I emote.  As a recovering DQ, you never have to guess where I’m coming from, because I will tell you, without hesitation.  I do better with small groups of like-minded people, who understand my straight forward presence.  I occasionally offend people with a perceived ‘bluntness’; yet this has been a trait that I have fought hard to adopt.  I was raised in a family that children were to be seen and not heard, leaving me with a feeling of invisibility that lasted well into my 30’s.  Harmony trumped truth in any social situation, regardless of my internal screaming.  Change is hard.

Although many people see me as strong and opinionated, I am also open-hearted, cry easily and rail against injustice, both real or perceived.  I accept that I will always be a work in progress, willing to love and be loved.  Cooking for others is my most sincere form of love.  Nourishment comes in many forms; a kind word, a compliment, or the warmth of a hug.  May we rely on each other for small gifts that are shared openly.  During this season of letting go, may I shed what no longer serves me.

STUFFED ACORN SQUASH

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large acorn squash (I like the Carnival variety)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 3 cups loosely packed, chopped greens (kale, Swiss chard or beet greens)
  • 3/4 cup almond slivers, toasted
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped for garnish (optional)

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F., and halve the acorn squashes lengthwise down the middle.  Scoop out the seeds.  Place the squash cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush halves with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and roast for about 45 minutes, or until the squash are fork tender.
  2. Meanwhile, place wild rice and water in heavy medium size pot.  Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down to a simmer.  Cook for 30 minutes to one hour, or until rice splits open and is tender.  This will be determined by the freshness of your rice.  Drain in wire colander and set aside.
  3. In a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and chopped onions.  Saute until onions are translucent.   Add chopped greens of your choice and continue cooking until greens are wilted.  Add almonds and dried cherries or cranberries, along with drained wild rice and combine.
  4. Fill each half of squash with filling, and place baking sheet back in oven for an additional 10 minutes.  Any leftover stuffing can be refrigerated and eaten as is or spooned over a salad.  Serve hot with fresh chopped parsley as garnish.

Serves: 4

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“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”
― Humbert Wolfe

I’ve Gone Nuts

Seasonal.  We are entering the threshold of fall.  Tomatoes are waning, sweet corn is done; but there are wonderful options that are showing up at the farmers market stalls.  Peppers, for example are prolific right now.  I love them roasted, and rely on them in jars during winter; but what if you change something traditionally done with roasted and made it with fresh peppers?  Muhammara, a Syrian spread is traditionally made with roasted Aleppo peppers (although jarred roasted peppers work just fine).  It also has bread and walnuts in combination with the roasted peppers.   I wondered what would happen if I used fresh peppers and additional varieties of nuts?  Game on.

FRESH RED PEPPER AND NUT SPREAD

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use avocado oil)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/4 cup unsalted roasted pistachios
  • 3 medium red bell peppers, about 1 pound, seeded and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 1 medium sweet onion (I used Wall Walla), cut into chunks
  • 1/3 cup toasted bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium heat.  Add walnuts and saute for about 3-5 minutes until lightly toasted.  Remove with slotted spoon and place in bowl of food processor.
  2. Add pine nuts and almonds to same skillet.  Saute for 2 minutes, until lightly golden.  Remove with slotted spoon to plate lined with paper towels.
  3. Add pistachios to food processor bowl and pulse until finely chopped.  Place in medium bowl.
  4. Add red pepper and onion to food processor bowl.  Pulse until fine.  Transfer to mesh strainer to remove liquid.  Let stand for 5 minutes.
  5. Add strained peppers and onions to bowl.  Stir in pine nuts, almonds, breadcrumbs and olive oil.  Season with salt, pepper and ground cayenne.
  6. Serve with crackers of choice. (I use crostini)

Yield: 3 cups

“A recipe has no soul.  You. As a cook bring soul to the recipe.”  — Thomas Keller

 

 

Earthly Delights

It feels like fall today.  Our weather and climate is unpredictable.  This has been our most unusual farm year.  Vegetables that normally grow without issue have struggled or been unable to grow at all.  This has not been a singular issue.  Many of our customers that have small gardens are wondering why they can’t grow certain vegetable this year.  Although there is no definite answer, as Dylan said, “The times they are a changing.”

Although change is definite, it instructs us to be fully present each day to the small miracles that surround us.  Comfort comes in many forms and simple pleasures can sometimes bring the most well-being.  Today it came in the form of warmth.   Our Katadin potatoes are the old Irish famine potato; earthy, creamy, with thin skins, they are exceptional in taste and texture.  When I first came to the farm I thought that a potato was a potato; until I tasted these remarkable spuds.  If you don’t have access to this particular variety, you can use russets.  It’s important to use a variety that breaks down slightly when cooked.  The advantage is a creamy soup without the use of heavy cream.  Make sure you use fresh dill.  It elevates this soup to something distinctive. Although the ingredients are simple, the soup is heavenly.

POTATO LEEK SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 pounds of Katadin (or russet) potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks
  • 3 medium leeks, using white and pale green parts, scrubbed and sliced thinly
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (I use Kerrygold)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, (I use Maldon)
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large pot, over medium-high heat, melt the butter then add the leeks and saute until soft, about 4-6 minutes.  Add the potatoes and salt; then water to cover the potatoes by about an inch.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to medium and cook until the potatoes are soft. (When using fresh potatoes, be aware that these cook much faster than other potatoes that have been cured, or harvested many months earlier).  Taste for salt, add more if needed.
  2. With an immersion blender, blend the soup to thicken, leaving a far amount of chunks.  Add half of the fresh dill.
  3. Ladle into bowls and top with additional dill.

Serves 4-6

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“There is nothing like soup. It is by nature eccentric: no two are ever alike, unless of course you get your soup in a can.” — Laurie Colwin

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