Sunday, October 18, 2009

Apple Notes and a Squash Recipe

The farm season is truly over now: It snowed here. Yeesh! That's all the more reason to be warming up the kitchen with some cooking. So here are a few notes before I take a short hiatus from CSA posts:
  • Applesauce is a wonderful thing. I made a couple of batches in the past week, using up 8 pounds of apples. Applesauce Cake is not far behind.
  • I tried out this Sweet Apple Pie Bread earlier this week. It's a quick bread--not especially pie-like--but it's virtually fat-free, especially if you use a skim milk-and-vinegar substitute for buttermilk. Watch out for the way the measurements are written: 1 "T" means a teaspoon of baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon, and not a tablespoon.
  • Searching for something to do with fish, I came across Teriyaki Trout with Snappy Apple Salsa by The Crispy Cook. Oooooh, this was tasty. I used Arctic char instead of Steelhead trout, and I didn't marinate the fish for more than 15 minutes, but it worked. The salsa features apple and fennel, which I found I liked despite not being overly fond of licorice. (I had plenty of leftover fennel, so I sliced and roasted it with parsnips and carrots for another dinner this week. I told you I was cooking.)
  • With the sudden turn to cold weather, I had a craving for soup. What a good way to use up my final container of Hubbard squash puree! This recipe is liberally adapted from one in the Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant cookbook. If you don't have a Hubbard squash (sigh), try butternut or acorn. (I bet it would work with pumpkin, too.) Roast, boil or steam the squash to get the cooked pulp.
Squash Soup
(Inspired by Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1.5 cups water
1 apple, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 cups cooked squash pulp
1.5 cups tomato juice
0.5 cups orange juice
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large pot. Saute onion and spices until onion is translucent. Add water, apple and celery, cover and simmer about 10 minutes.

Remove bay leaves. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the onion mixture to a food processor. Puree the onion mixture and squash and return to the liquid in the pot. Add the tomato juice and orange juice and mix well. Gently reheat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Eggplant, Without Parmesan

I love Eggplant Parmesan. Really, I do. It's tasty and filling and it freezes well. But when I have the eggplant, but not the time, I opt for stir-fry. I've been making variations of this for the last couple of weeks.

Eggplant Stir-Fry

(All amounts are approximate. I've marked a few ingredients as "optional," but consider them all optional. Adjust or substitute ingredients for your taste. )

Canola oil
1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
2-3 scallions, sliced, or 1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Thai chili, seeds removed, sliced
2 small bell peppers, chopped
4-5 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 or more eggplant (depending on size), cubed with peel on
1 pound thinly sliced beef or chicken, or fish or tofu (optional)
1/4 cup dry sherry
3 Tbsp soy sauce
Sesame oil (optional)
Sesame seeds (optional)

Heat a small amount of canola oil in a deep-sided skillet, and stir-fry the ginger, scallion/onion, garlic, chili pepper, bell pepper, and mushrooms until tender-crisp. Remove from skillet and heat a little more oil if necessary. Add the eggplant and let it cook undisturbed for about 3 minutes. It should brown a bit on the bottom but release from the bottom of the skillet. Stir the eggplant around and let it cook, now stirring occasionally, another 3 minutes or so, until it softens.

If you are adding a protein, remove the eggplant and stir fry the beef/chicken/etc. separately. Then continue by returning the vegetables to the skillet, along with the sherry and soy sauce. Add a touch of sesame oil if desired and garnish with sesame seeds.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Week 18: Season's Endings

raw corn grilled corn

It's been a corny summer. Good thing we're a corny family.

October 9 was our last pickup of the season: corn, apples, carrots, eggplant, parsnips, and peppers. I'm going to have to buy my Swiss chard at the supermarket or greengrocer now.

Way back in June, it wasn't clear we'd see anything this summer but lettuce, radishes, and leafy green vegetables. But here are some totals from the season:
  • 116 ears of corn
  • 51 peppers, about evenly split between sweet bell peppers and hot varieties
  • 44 tomatoes (that was a surprise!)
  • 28 apples
  • 27 cucumbers
  • 18 eggplant
  • 18 heads of lettuce (14 of them in the first three weeks of the season)
  • 11 summer squash and zucchini, combined
  • 2 winter squash
  • and ... 4 bunches of Swiss chard.
I have around 12 cups of blanched corn kernels in my freezer, so we won't be needing any canned corn for a while.

It was nice enough last Sunday to grill the fresh corn and eat it outside -- probably our last picnic until spring. I saved the kernels from two of the grilled ears for a pot of vegetarian chili.

The eggplant and some of the peppers went into a stir fry, my go-to plan for when I need a quick dinner. (Recipe posted here.)

The rest of the week has been dominated by apples. Caboodle and The Programmer picked a half-peck together a couple of weeks ago. Add to that the apples coming steadily from the CSA (six in this final week), and the full peck that Caboodle picked during a youth group outing on Columbus Day. I've resorted to making applesauce -- the first recipe I learned in junior high Home Ec.! I guess that course was worthwhile after all.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bonus Post: Spiked Apples!

Sometimes I stray from the model of veggies-grains-beans. We had beef brisket the other night, so I made these baked apples with herbs, shallots and wine. The recipe is not a slam-dunk--I found it to be a little too sweet--but it's worth trying. (You can safely ignore the part about pomegranate molasses.)

Even better was Buttered Rum Apples. I concocted the recipe, inspired by one that has even more alcohol in it. It was a decadent birthday dessert served with French vanilla ice cream.

Buttered Rum Apples

2 large Cortland apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into half-inch thick pieces
2 ounces butter (1/2 stick)
3 Tbsp light brown sugar
4 ounces dark rum
French vanilla ice cream

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute apples briefly and add in the sugar and rum. Simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce reduces and thickens. Split the apples between two dessert bowls and top with a scoop of ice cream.

Week 17: An Ode to the Mother Hubbard

: Caribbean Chicken Stew

hubbard in ovenAs much as we joke about Swiss chard around here, the real story of last year's CSA season was winter squash. We received 22 of them from mid-September through mid-October, including two Blue Hubbards that together weighed about 24 pounds. (That's the 9-pounder in the photo.) We ate squash roasted with herbs and stewed with spices. Cubed and curried. And when we couldn't keep up any longer by eating them fresh, we made squash puree that we could freeze. You can get two cups of puree from a 1-pound squash, so by the time we broke into our second Hubbard (in early November; these things can be kept for a while), we were swimming in squash.

Thus began our squash distribution project. Defrosted puree became squash bread, squash muffins, squash butter, spiced squash at Thanksgiving, and squash latkes at Chanukah. If you were a guest in my home anytime from last November through this past June, you were served something with squash in it. If I was a guest in your home, I brought along something with squash in it.

I bring this up because here we are, a day away from the end of the 2009 season, and I have received only two winter squash (both butternut). It's safe to say there is no way I'm going to get 22 squash from the CSA this year, and that makes me a little sad, even if I'm also a little relieved. So I salute thee, Hubbards of yore, and think: Maybe next season.

Aside from the squash, we received a full CSA bag this week: apples (baked); corn (boiled); plum tomatoes (sandwiches); eggplant (Parmesan); and green beans (marinated). Last week's butternut was cubed, tossed with a little olive oil, and roasted. This week's butternut was cubed and tossed with chicken and spices for a quick stew.

chicken stewCaribbean Chicken Stew
(adapted from USA Weekend recipe)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp nutmeg
1 red chili pepper, seeds removed and sliced
1 bay leaf
1 can (14.4 ounces) diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth or water
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
2 cups butternut squash, cubed (half a squash)
1 can black beans (15.5 ounces), drained and rinsed

In a large pot, heat oil. Add onion, green pepper, garlic and saute 3 minutes. Add spices and saute 3 minutes longer. Add tomatoes, broth or water, chicken, squash, and beans. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with couscous or rice.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Week 16: Stuff This

: Poblanos With Mexican-Spiced Stuffing

stuffed poblanosWe started off the week with a passel of peppers: mostly poblanos, some sweet bells, a cubanelle, and skinny red chilies. (For the record, a passel is smaller than a peck.) I'm working down the hot chilies in stir fry and in scrambled eggs, but we polished off the rest of the lot in the form of stuffed peppers.

Stuffed peppers are a cinch to make, and they are a great vehicle for using up not only peppers but also leftover rice and beans. (If you look at some of the other recipes on my blog, you can see why I so often have a cup of canned beans in the fridge.) I baked the extra stuffing in a small casserole dish alongside the peppers.

Poblanos with Mexican-Spiced Stuffing
(amounts are approximate)

8 to 12 poblano peppers
3 cups cooked brown rice
1.5 cups black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 Tbsp ground cumin, or more to taste
1/2 cup Monterery Jack cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup tomato sauce or salsa

Lay each poblano flat and make a T-shaped incision along the top. Gently pry the slits open and scrape out seeds. Rinse and dry the peppers and set aside.

Mix together the rice, beans, cumin, cheese, cilantro, and scallions. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Stuff the peppers.

Place tomato sauce or salsa on the bottom of a baking dish. (I used tomato sauce that I doctored with chili powder and garlic powder, but I think salsa would work well.) Lay the poblanos on the sauce and top each with a little extra cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. Cool slightly, then serve the peppers with sauce or salsa on the side.