Tag Archives: cheese

Shelter From The Storm

As we wind up week six of social distancing, I am recognizing my emotions looming large.  One minute grief, then anger, jumping to anxiety, then surprising me completely by hope. I can be washing the dishes or folding clothes and I find tears running down my face.  I listen to the news and feel angry at people who aren’t taking this virus seriously.  I’m furious at the misinformation and lies.  I wake up during the night and process thoughts for 2-4 hours.  There are times I think, “What’s wrong with me? Am I losing my mind?” The truth is, I am completely normal. There is absolutely nothing wrong with me. I am simply leaning fearlessly into my emotions. I want to know what is below the surface of my packaging. The average person didn’t see the corona-virus coming; and then the world came to a collective pause. Everything changed. Nothing is as is was.

We are in shock. I keep hearing people wanting to get back to normal. Yet what does that look like? Why long to return to an existence that was not working for most of us? I for one, have no desire to return to the times of collective exhaustion, greed and disconnection.  In this collective pause why not dream of a better way? Why not take these precious  moments and rein-vision something that sustains and nourishes us? We already know how to distance. We’ve been running away from healthy solutions for humans and the planet for generations, chasing our desire for bigger and better until the world couldn’t take it anymore.

For now, cooking and my kitchen help to steady my emotional tides. Preparing food for me is like meditation or prayer for some. One thing I do know: we need to practice a lot more kindness and compassion for each other. Our world is not a virtual reality; it is the reality. Right here, right now. We all yearn for shelter from the storm.

 

 

 

Made To Order

Well, we’ve been self-sheltering for a month now and we are entering that phase of searching through the freezer, pantry and reduced items in the refrigerator.  As vegetable farmers we are fortunate that we do a lot of canning and freezing during the optimal summer months; and for that we are grateful.  With a little thought and creativity, it’s amazing just what you can come up with that is not only inventive, but delicious!

We don’t eat many sweet things in our household.  We lean more to the savory spectrum.  I can enjoy a quick bread like zucchini or pumpkin as well as the next person; but this….this savory quick bread has multiple options galore.  Remember that piece of ham you froze during the holiday’s?  Perfect.  That hunk on cheese in your refrigerator?  Yes!  Don’t like Gruyere ?  Ok…use cheddar.  Those herbs in your crisper that need to be used or composted soon? Yup.  Vegetarian?  Leave out the ham and toss in some olives, or sun-dried tomatoes.  You can make two loaves and freeze one.  I love it toasted the next day with butter and a fresh slice of tomato and sprouts.  You are only limited by your imagination.  Enjoy.

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SAVORY QUICK BREAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 tablespoons), melted and cooled
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup ham, chopped in small cubes
  • 1/4 cup scallions, using both green and white parts, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped (or dill, chives or tarragon)
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) Gruyere, Swiss or cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk *

Note:  If you find yourself without buttermilk on hand, use 1 cup whole milk and add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar.

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour a metal 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and set it aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking power, salt and baking soda.  Stir in chopped ham (or olives and sun-dried tomatoes), scallions, herb of choice, and all but 1/4 cup of your selected cheese (you will use the rest for topping).
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs and buttermilk.  Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine.  The batter will be thick.
  4. Transfer the batter to your prepared loaf pan.  Spread batter out evenly with a spatula.  Top with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.  Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed, about 45-55 minutes.
  5. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from loaf pan and let completely cool on wire rack.

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Yield: 1 loaf

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

Opportunity Knocks

As we all creep forward during this time of uncertainty; nature, reading, planting our vegetable farm and cooking are keeping me grounded and hopeful.  Rural living is a calming lifestyle that continues to nourish us.  Even with the farm year slowly ramping up, we have an established rhythm for daily life, that is forward thinking and hopeful.  Regardless of how this crisis plays out, if we can’t get to the farmers market to sell our food, it will certainly not be wasted.  We will be canning, along with making sure that our neighbors have access to fresh food. I respect that our farmers market is staying open, with a plan of action and necessary precautions.  Young farmers and businesses need to serve their communities and stay open as long as possible.  As elders, with my wife having a compromised immune system, we have been self-sheltering with the understanding that growing food is the very best use of our time.

It is often said that the character of a individual is how they respond to adversity.  After all happiness is an inside job; but I admit to having several sleepless nights. I am keenly aware of my privilege in feeling relatively safe during this time.  My heart hurts for people who have lost their jobs, businesses that have had to close, people without a sufficient safety net to get them through this time of uncertainty.  I trust the creativity and innovation of people, much more than the total lack of leadership at the federal level.  I know we will collectively get through this stressful time.  It is my hope that lessons will be learned that can lift all of us up, in the face of future challenges.

Actually, self-sheltering has been our rural life style.  When people come to the farm to laugh, cook and eat with us, they often say how they need to be a part of something with purpose.  Urban living has its own forms of signature stress.  They see a well lived in home, with a rich history, surrounded by land and vegetables, as something distant from their own reality.  We look forward to being able to welcome our friends back into our home and break bread together.  In the meantime, reading, writing, planting and preparing food is our devotion.

I usually make the following recipe during the summer months, but I have found that the use of frozen corn and the frozen cherry tomatoes that I put up during the last farm season create a beautiful and delicious alternative.  Depending on your circumstances and location, most grocery stores have cherry tomatoes even this time of year.

FRESH CORN POLENTA WITH ROASTED CHERRY TOMATOES

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 ears of fresh corn (or 6 cups frozen)
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 7 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 cups fresh or frozen cherry tomatoes
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Chopped fresh basil or parsley for garnish

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INSTRUCTIONS:

FOR THE TOMATOES:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Pour cherry tomatoes and garlic onto sheet pan and drizzle 4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.  Roll the tomatoes around with the palms of your hands to evenly coat.
  2. Sprinkle the tomatoes and garlic with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Roast for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and toss the tomatoes.  Return to oven for 20-30 minutes more or until the tomatoes have slit and are slightly brown in some places.

FOR POLENTA:

  1. If using fresh corn, peel the leaves and silk from each ear, then chop off the pointed top and stalk.  Use a sharp knife to shave off the kernels, taking care to remove as much of the ‘milk’ below the kernels as possible, while stabilizing the cob on a cutting board.  You will need 6 cups of kernels.
  2. Place the fresh or frozen kernels in a medium saucepan and barely cover them with water.  Cook for 12 minutes on a low simmer.  Use a slotted spoon to lift the kernels from the water and into a food processor; reserve the cooking liquid in a Pyrex measuring cup.
  3. Process for several minutes; you want to break as much of the kernel case as possible.  Add some of the cooking liquid if the mixture becomes too dry to process.
  4. Return the corn paste to the pan with some of the cooking liquid and cook, while stirring, on low heat for 10-15 minutes; or until the corn mixture thickens to a mashed potato consistency. (the more liquid you use, the longer this process will take; watch carefully in case it sputters)
  5. Fold in the butter, the feta, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

TO ASSEMBLE:

Spoon some of the polenta into individual shallow bowls,.  Spoon roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic on top.  Garnish with fresh basil or parsley.

Serves: 4

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“When we are generous in welcoming people and sharing something with them— some food, a place in our homes, our time— not only do we no longer remain poor: we are enriched.”  —Pope Francis

 

 

Occasional Decadence

My father had many sayings that he would repeat when the mood suited him; but my favorite was, “All things in moderation, including moderation.”  I pretty much live by this code.  I don’t apologize for the occasional desert or rich dish; their just soooo yummy!  This one is no exception.  Cream, pancetta, and garlic take Swiss chard to another level entirely.  You could make it with bacon, but why not hit a home run rather than a base hit?  The first time I made this for my green’s hating brother-in-law, he took seconds (twice).  Another time my nephew pulled the casserole to his place setting and wondered what everyone else was going to eat.  It’s tradition at Thanksgiving, but I can’t help making it at least once a month during the winter season.

SWISS CHARD CASSEROLE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I use ciabatta)
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 slices pancetta, diced
  • 2-3 bunches Swiss chard, wash and spun, stems removed and chopped into 1/4 inch slices (approximately 2 1/2 cups); leaves cut into ribbons (approximately 8-12 cups
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and toss it with the breadcrumbs; set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and garlic to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 8 minutes, reducing the volume slightly.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, in a 12 inch non-stick skillet, cook the pancetta over medium heat until crisp and browned.  Drain on paper towels, reserving 1 tablespoon of the fat in skillet.  Add remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to skillet and melt.  Add the chard stems and saute over medium-high heat until they are soft and slightly browned, about 8-10 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and add chard leaves.  Saute chard for about 3-5 minutes or until wilted.
  4. With tongs, transfer the chard to a gratin or ceramic dish, leaving any excess liquid in skillet.  Spread evenly.
  5. Sprinkle pancetta over chard.  Pour the seasoned cream over chard.  Sprinkle pancetta over cream and chard; top with buttered bread crumbs.  Bake until golden and bubbly, about 25-35 minutes.  Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4-6

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”Comfort food—food that reassures—is different things to different people.”  –David Tanis

Anyway You Slice It

I eat a lot of salads.  I never tire of the crunch factor.  The winter is a great time to step outside the box and look for salads that don’t rely on lettuce as the main ingredient.  I usually look for seasonal, stable vegetables; and brassicas are an easy solution.  Every thing from cauliflower, to broccoli, to cabbage offer creative and healthy options for salads with a seasonal flare.

Another thing to keep in mind is to include a variety of textures, color and flavor profiles.  Sweet against salty, is one I often use to help keep it interesting.  This salad has all the elements that I enjoy.  It’s colorful, crunchy, sweet and salty all at the same time.  It has great staying power and lasts for several days in the refrigerator.

Red Cabbage Salad with Dates and Feta

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 small red cabbage (or half of a large one), halved, cored, then quartered and sliced very thin
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates, coarsely chopped
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1.  In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.  Taste and adjust with more lime juice and salt.  It should taste well seasoned.  Let macerate on counter for 30-45 minutes, to slightly soften cabbage.
  2. Toss dressed cabbage with half of the dates. and feta.  Arrange in a bowl or on a platter, and sprinkle the rest of the dates and feta on top.  Garnish with parsley and toasted almonds.

Serves 4-6

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 “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.””

 

Roll On!

Involtini is an Italian word for various small bites of food consisting of some sort of outer layer wrapped around a filing.  It can be made with a wrapeer of meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetables, with fillings like cheese, vegetables, cured meats, and nuts.  In this case the wrapper is zucchini and the filling is ricotta, pesto, and fontina.

For me, the definition of comfort food is smelling something luscious coming together in the kitchen.  Since I consider the kitchen to be the heart of the home, I love making dishes that catch people’s attention when they come in from outside.  This dish packs a flavor punch, yet won’t weight you down.  I make it with my homemade roasted tomato sauce, but you can easily substitute canned crushed tomatoes.  If you can, try to find locally raised grass-fed lamb; it’s leaner and more flavorful.  This dish can be made ahead up to 12 hours and reheated.  It can also be doubled for a crowd.  Serve with a simple salad tossed with vinaigrette and you’re in business.

STUFFED ZUCCHINI INVOLTINI

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb or sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (I like San Marzano)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped (2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (slightly more if you enjoy more heat)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 large zucchini
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded fontina cheese
  • 1/2  cup basil pesto, homemade or store-bought
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh basil, ribboned for serving

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Lightly oil a 9×13 baking dish or dish of similar size.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet on medium-high heat.  Add Italian sausage or ground lamb, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.  Cook until no longer pink.  Reduce the heat to low, add the bell pepper, tomatoes, oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper flakes, along with salt and pepper.  Simmer for 10 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, using mandolin or vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini into 1/4 inch wide strips and lay them flat on a paper towel lined counter.  You should have about 30 strips.  Sprinkle the zucchini with salt.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, fontina, and 1/2 cup pesto.
  5. To assemble, spoon the tomato meat sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Place two zucchini ribbons on cutting board side by side, and slightly overlapping lengthwise.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling onto the zucchini.  Roll into a coil and place each seam-side down in the dish as you go.  Repeat with remaining zucchini.  Top with mozzarella.  Cover with foil.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted.  Remove foil and broil for 3-5 minutes to lightly brown.  Cook 5 minutes and top with ribboned basil and thyme leaves.

Serves 6

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“If you cook Italian food, why should you go to a restaurant?”  –Martin Scorsese

The Flavorful Earth

Many years ago, when I was 10 years old, I made my first pie crust.  I had read the ingredients incorrectly and accidentally switched the salt and sugar amounts, making the pie virtually inedible.  Since then I have used refrigerator pie crusts with similar results;  they too were tough, tasteless and inedible.  I love tarts, pies and galettes and wanted to master these at home.  My reluctance to make homemade pie crusts continued until 2 months ago when my surrogate mother Mama Jan Burian offered me a solution.  I had always admired her baking skills and shared with her that pie crusts intimidated me.  She gave me her perfect pie crust recipe.  “It’s virtually foolproof!”, she told me.

Although slightly skeptical, with the encouragement of Mama Jan, I knew I had to try again.  After making the very first one, I regretted getting stuck in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.  My god, it was foolproof!  I am now delighted to report that there is no turning back!  I’m obsessed with savory galettes.  This one has become a favorite; and can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  It comes together quickly and has had favorable reviews.  Thanks Mama Jan!!

SAVORY MUSHROOM GRUYERE GALETTE

MAMA JAN’S PERFECT PIE CRUST

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill Fine Pastry Flour)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • ½ cup ice water

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pulse flour, sugar and salt in a processor.  Add butter and shortening; pulse until crumbly.  Add ice water and pulse until it forms a ball.  Dust silicone baking mat with flour; place ball on mat and cut in half.  Wrap each half in plastic wrap.  If using for a one crust pie or galette, place one half in refrigerator for one hour; place other half in freezer for future use.
  2. Remove wrapped dough from refrigerator and let stand for 10-15.  Unwrap and place on lightly floured silicone baking mat.  Roll out in a circle of about 16 inches in diameter.  Roll loosely around your rolling pin and place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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FOR FILLING:

  •  2-3 medium sized shallots, minced
  • 2 12 ounce packages white button or crimini mushrooms, or a mixture of both, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup white vermouth
  • Kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 8 ounces finely shredded Gruyere or Comte cheese
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large non-stick skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add shallots and saute until soft, about 6-8 minutes.  Add mushrooms, then thyme leaves and continue to saute as the mushrooms start to sweat out their moisture.  After about 10 minutes add your white vermouth, salt and pepper.  Continue sauteing until most of the moisture is evaporated from pan.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Place your finely shredded Gruyere cheese in a 12 inch circle in the center of rolled out crust; leaving a 2 inch border.  Place your mushroom mixture on top of Gruyere.  Gently fold over border making occasional pleats where necessary.
  3. Brush with beaten egg.  Place in over for 35-45 minutes; or until crust is golden and mushrooms are bubbly.  Let sit for 10 minutes before cutting.  Garnish with chopped parsley.

Serves 2-4

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“I learned that a galette is sort of the offspring of a pie and a tart- halfway between homespun and fancy- but easier to make than its parents. The biggest difference is that a galette is a free-form pastry, baked without a pie pan or tart ring. It’s rustic. And it’s forgiving. You just roll it out flat and then fold it in roughly around the filling.”                       —Viola Shipman