Thursday, September 30, 2010

Week 16: Stuffed Cabbage Casserole; Turkey Corn Soup

We started off the week with a load of vegetables: leftovers from Week 15 (green cabbage, butternut squash), the current share (red cabbage, broccoli, corn, red and green tomatoes), and our own crops (more tomatoes, both red and green). Here at week's end, I'm not completely caught up -- the squash, for one, remains untouched -- but I've made a sizeable dent.

So what's come out of the kitchen? Salsa verde, served with chips. Corn and green tomato pancakes, eaten as a side dish to tuna. Red cabbage slaw with peanut dressing. Cabbage casserole and turkey soup (detailed below). Still to come: Fresh pasta sauce, pickled green tomatoes, maybe a stir fry with the remaining cabbage. And something with squash.
Stuffed Cabbage Casserole
(Adapted recipe. The original uses a can of tomato soup and a can of soup water instead of tomato sauce. The flavor of this dish is reminiscent of stuffed cabbage, but with much less work.)

1 medium green cabbage (about 2 pounds), cut up
1 pound lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup uncooked white rice
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce

Grease a large baking dish (9 by 13 inches) and place cabbage inside. Brown beef and onion in a skillet. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Stir in rice. Place meat mixture over the cabbage. Pour tomato sauce over all. Cover dish and bake at 350 degrees for one hour, or until the cabbage is tender and the rice is cooked. (Check after 30 minutes and add a little water to the dish if it seems dry.)

Turkey Corn Soup
(Adapted recipe; similar to this one.)

6 cups turkey stock
5 ears corn
2 cups diced, cooked turkey (about 9 ounces)
1 cup sliced celery (about 2 stalks)
3 ounces broad or “homestyle” egg noodles
Black pepper and salt

Place the stock in a large (4 quart) soup pan. Slice whole kernels from two ears of corn and add to stock. Over a bowl, to catch the pulp and liquid, grate the kernels from the remaining three ears of corn, using the large holes of a box grater. Add to the stock mixture, along with the diced turkey and celery. Bring the stock to a gentle boil. Add the noodles and simmer until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Adjust the seasoning as desired and serve hot.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Week 15: Lasagna With Squash and Kale

I had ambitious cooking plans for the week. I also had ambitious work plans. Work won out, and that's why I have a head of green cabbage, a butternut squash, and a couple of beets to carry me into the coming CSA week.

Still, we had two good CSA-centric meals. One was a pot of roasted vegetables that included this week's eggplant and tomatoes along with onions, garlic, pepper, and potato. It was similar to ratatouille, but accompanied by a Thai-inspired peanut sauce. (I liked it better without the sauce.) The other meal was lasagna, a multi-step, multi-pot concoction that I decided to tackle when a client's database problems prevented me from logging into work. (Ah, the joys of being a remote freelancer.) The lasagna, which used up one of our butternut squashes and our kale, ultimately was worth the work. It would make a lovely vegetarian entree for Thanksgiving.

Lasagna With Squash and Kale
(Adapted from Sunset Magazine. The lasagna can be assembled and refrigerated up to a day ahead of baking.)

4 Tbsp olive oil (divided use)
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic (1 minced; 2 peeled but left whole)
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper
6 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 pounds squash)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 pound kale
9 whole-wheat lasagna noodles (8 oz.)
1 container (15 oz.) part-skim ricotta cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese (divided use)

Prepare the sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a sauce pot over medium heat. Cook the onion and minced garlic for about 5 minutes, or until the onion softens, then add in the tomatoes, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for about 20 minutes, then set aside.

Prepare the squash: Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the squash cubes and the whole garlic cloves with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with the thyme; sprinkle with salt and pepper as desired. (I used only pepper.) Spread on a large baking pan (10 by 17 inches) and bake until soft, about 15 minutes. (Note: The squash won't cook that fast if your cubes are larger than the 1/2-inch dice.) Let the squash and garlic cool a bit, then puree them in a food processor and set aside.

Prepare the kale: Bring about 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Remove the center ribs from the kale leaves. Discard the ribs and boil the kale leaves for about 5 minutes or until soft. Drain, let cool, then squeeze out as much water as possible from the leaves. Chop the leaves finely.

Prepare the noodles: Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the lasagna noodles, a few at a time, to keep the water boiling. Cook the noodles for about 10 minutes, or as directed on the packaging, until tender. Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water. Separate the noodles and lay out on wax paper to keep them from sticking to one another.

Prepare the cheese: Mix together the ricotta cheese, nutmeg, 1 cup of mozzarella, and another 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.

Assemble the lasagna: Layer the components in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish in this order, spreading the layers as evenly as possible:
  • 1.5 cups tomato sauce
  • 3 noodles
  • All of the squash
  • One-half of the kale
  • 3 noodles
  • All of the ricotta cheese mixture
  • All of the remaining kale
  • 3 noodles
  • Remaining tomato sauce
  • Remaining 1 cup mozzarella (or a bit less, depending on taste)
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the juices are bubbling. Add 10 to 15 minutes to the baking time if the lasagna has been pre-assembled and refrigerated. Let the lasagna stand 10 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Week 14: Hungarian Peach Cake

load of peachesPeaches. By golly, we got PEACHES.

The farm said to "fill your bag" with pick-your-own peaches, and Caboodle and I took the instructions to heart ... until the bag became kind of hard to lift.

We lugged home 20 pounds of peaches, or about 60 individual pieces of fruit. At least half wound up being sliced and frozen -- they'll brighten up some miserable day this winter -- but we had plenty of peaches to share with friends and to nosh on all week. And with that many peaches around, I didn't feel too bad about sacrificing a few to experimental baking.

Cobbler recipes seem to fall into two styles: those that have fruit under a biscuit or doughy topping (along the lines of these blueberry cobblers) and those in which the fruit cooks on top of a batter. We tried one browned-butter, peach-topped cobbler that was tasty, but unnecessarily rich. We preferred the peach-topped cake detailed below, which was cobbler-like, but lighter in texture.

Also in our CSA bag this week -- wedged under the 20 pounds of peaches -- were a couple of cucumbers, three yellow squash, green tomatoes, and a sugar pumpkin. The kids weren't crazy about roasted pumpkin, but they did like the roasted pumpkin seeds. The green tomatoes went into a Indian-style stew with yellow split peas -- filling, but not photogenic. A highlight of the week was a thin crust pizza topped with our heirloom tomatoes, grown on our CSA-provided tomato plants.

peach cakeHungarian Peach Cake
(Adapted from The Complete American-Jewish Cookbook by Anne London and Bertha Kahn Bishov (1971 edition). I cannot vouch for "Hungarian" origins of this recipe.)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
4 to 5 peaches, sliced in half and pit removed
Sugar-cinnamon mixture for sprinkling (see note)

Sift flour with baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs individually and beat well. Add in flour mixture and mix well. Pour or spread the batter evenly into a well-greased pan (10.5 x 6.5 x 2 inches). Gently press the peach halves on top of the batter. Sprinkle with sugar-cinnamon mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Cut cake into pieces (around the peach halves) and serve warm. Makes 8 to 10 pieces.

Note: The original recipe calls for sprinkling the top of the cake with a mixture of 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. I mixed up the sugar and cinnamon as directed, but didn't use more than a couple of tablespoons of the mixture. The cake was plenty sweet.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Week 13: Last Blast of Summer Corn Salad

corn and bean saladThe defining word for this week is "transition." The calendar says summer, but I'm making the mental switch to autumn. Well ... mostly, which is why corn on the cob appeared on our Rosh Hashanah table, along with the soup and brisket and apples.

It was a hefty CSA haul this week: peaches, apples, green beans, green tomatoes, plum tomatoes, cucumbers, and corn. The Programmer, Caboodle, and I also made an apple-picking pilgrimage to Russell Orchards on Sunday -- not that we needed more apples, but our schedule gets tighter as the season goes on. (I don't think the girls will object if I use some of those apples in a cake or crisp sometime soon.)

The week's produce (and last week's leftovers) wound up in a variety of dishes: carrot cake for Kit's birthday; butternut squash soup, kicked up a notch with a bit of hot pepper; corn muffins, made with fresh corn kernels; a green tomato gratin, with feta cheese; refrigerator pickles; curried vegetables, featuring green beans, plum tomatoes and a purchased cauliflower; roasted peaches (delicious with vanilla yogurt; even better with French vanilla ice cream); lots of applesauce, now mostly in the freezer; and an apple-celery root slaw with a mustard-honey dressing.

I pulled together this corn salad as our family's contribution to a Labor Day weekend barbecue. I love the combination of corn and beans; see my Seaside Corn and Bean Salad for another variation.

Last Blast of Summer Corn Salad
(Serves 8 or more as a side dish)

6 ears of corn
1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 pickling cucumber, seeded and diced, but peel left on (about 1 cup)
1/2 to 1 cup diced red onion
1 Tbsp red basil, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste

Lightly steam or boil the corn, then place in cold water to stop the cooking. Drain corn and remove kernels from the cobs. Mix corn kernels with the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Week 12: Watermelon Gazpacho Shooters

watermelon gazpachoWow, that was a whirlwind of a week. It was Kit's bat mitzvah this past Saturday, and between Friday and Tuesday we had a steady stream of friends and relatives through our kitchen. The whole experience was exhilarating and exhausting. The food was pretty good, too, if I do say so myself.

Over the course of the weekend, much of Friday's share was served to our guests: fresh apples and peaches, served plain; wax beans and cherry tomatoes, in pasta salad; carrots, in a green salad; and round tomatoes, sliced for sandwiches. Previous CSA fare turned up in the form of chocolate zucchini bread and blueberry crumb bars.

Now that the family has cleared out, I can take stock of my leftovers: a couple of carrots, which are destined to become carrot cake; a butternut squash; and a handful of hot peppers. Hmmm, I ought to be able to come up with some hot-sweet squash idea. I'll have to report back on that.

Here's something from our pre-bat mitzvah Friday evening dinner that uses seasonal produce, can serve a crowd, and is refreshing on a hot night.

Watermelon Gazpacho Shooters
(Adapted from Good Food Catering Company)

1/4 of a seedless watermelon, cubed
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 tomato, chopped
1 to 2 ounces red wine vinegar
Black pepper and salt to taste

Reserve a third of the diced cucumber for garnish. Blend remaining cucumber, watermelon, and tomato in a food processor (in batches) or in a bowl with an immersion blender. Add seasonings to taste. Chill gazpacho, preferably overnight. Serve cold in shot glasses, garnished with cucumber. Makes 30 to 40 one-ounce servings.