Roasted Tomato Soup

The tomatoes are taking over! Plum, cherry, great big Brandywine and Ramapos, all precariously perched on my counter. I needed to get cracking before they all turned to mush, but I have little time to cook these days, and a lot of my kitchen equipment is packed for the move.

Then I remembered this couldn't-be-easier recipe that's great to keep in mind as we start getting those cool "fall preview" evenings. The recipe freezes well too- freeze the soup after you puree it but before adding any cream. You can always add cream when you reheat the soup, if you want.

Ryan usually avoids soup, but I served him a small amount with a few homemade croutons floating on top, and he finished the whole bowl. I was amazed!

Roasted Tomato Soup- adapted from Tyler Florence

You need:
2 1/2 lb. assorted tomatoes, halved and cored
2 small yellow onions (or a handful of shallots), peeled and sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
Several handfuls of fresh basil leaves
Heavy cream (optional)

Heat the oven to 450. Place the tomatoes, cut side down, on a large baking sheet along with the sliced onion and garlic cloves. Drizzle generously with olive oil (use 1/4 cup or more) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes until tomatoes are soft and beginning to caramelize.

Pour everything, including all the juices, from the baking sheet into a large stockpot. Add about 4 cups of stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer 20 minutes to blend the flavors. Add a basil leaves, then blitz everything thoroughly with an immersion blender. Add a bit of cream, if desired. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Great with:
-A grilled cheese sandwich and a pickle
-Roasted corn kernels added after pureeing
-Homemade croutons on top
-A handful of cooked tortellini or ravioli in each bowl

Gratin improv

I had eggplant. I had tomatoes. I had fresh basil. I had fresh mozzarella. I had a bag full of leftover cubed baguette in the freezer. The stars were aligned.

The eggplant got sliced, brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and broiled until light golden. Thick slices of ripe tomato and thin slices of the mozzarella were layered with the eggplant in a gratin dish. The basil was torn up by hand and tossed on top. A drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper for good measure. Then, the bread cubes, and another generous drizzle of oil over all.

I covered the gratin with foil and baked at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, until the juices from the tomatoes were bubbling. I used a spatula to press down on the bread cube topping so that they would soak in some of that delicious juice, the put the gratin back in the oven uncovered until the tops of the bread cubes were crisp and golden.

Oh, it was so good.

CSA 2010: Week 12

9:06 AM by Stephanie 0 comments
It's been a few weeks since I've posted, but we are firmly in summer territory now. The lettuce is long gone, and the tomatoes are coming fast and furious. We've also had some wonderful heirloom potatoes. Summer squash are oddly MIA so far. I keep seeing them listed on the CSA's "This Week" page but we have yet to see any. Here's what we got this week.

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes! 7 lbs, to be exact. To go with the 6 lbs. we received last week. Also:

-A watermelon, oh happy day! It was perfect- ripe, flavorful, chin-drippingly good.
-Purple cabbage
-Cilantro
-Eggplant
-Shallots
-Chard
-Green beans
-Other assorted good things I'm forgetting at the moment

This is summer.


They were delicious, so sweet and so cold.

This summer moment brought to you by William Carlos Williams and Tree-Licious Orchards.

CSA 2010: Week 9- Tomatoes!

Joy of joys, it's finally raining! Good for the yard, good for my mental health. The heat has been absolutely draining me of energy.

We're finally seeing some summer-y produce; the tomatoes and squash have arrived in the farm stand. This week I'll be sure to check the forecast before making my weekly meal plan. No lasagna on 100 degree+ days this time.

Tomatoes! Hooray!
Pattypan squash
Two pounds of some lovely yellow-fleshed potatoes
Chard
Lettuce
Scallions
Cabbage
Basil

Specialty basil and a few stems of flowers were available in the pick-your-own fields today, but with the boys along and the rain steady, we didn't venture out. Looking forward to harvesting some Thai basil next week, though.

Sandwich night: Spinach and artichoke panini

Darn it, I keep forgetting to take pictures!

Tonight it was Jason's night to choose, but when I asked him what he wanted, he just mused "Well, panini would be good. Maybe something with artichokes..." And that was all the guidance I was going to get.

I'm on a major clean-out-the-pantry and purge-the-freezer kick, so I went rooting around and here's what I came up with. A can of artichoke hearts, a jar of roasted red peppers, and a package of frozen chopped spinach. In the fridge I found some Boursin and mozzarella.

I drained and chopped the artichoke hearts. Heated some olive oil in a skillet, then threw in some minced garlic and let it sizzle. I dumped in the artichokes and sauteed them til they started to brown just a bit, then stirred in the thawed, drained spinach and let the mixture cook til heated through. I sliced up a round french loaf, and spread Boursin on half of the slices. Then I topped the Boursin with the spinach-artichoke mixture, roasted pepper strips, and some shredded mozzarella. The outside of each sandwich got a light brushing of olive oil. Five minutes in the panini press and the sandwiches were cooked to golden perfection. Very tasty, AND I cleared out 3 pantry/freezer items plus finished off the Boursin and mozzarella. I need to think of Boursin for panini more often- the creamy texture and garlic-herb flavors make it a great spread for hot sandwiches.

Next week it's back to Ryan's turn, and I'm hoping his choice will be something other than banana-Nutella panini. We'll see...

Making it up as I go...

When I scribbled this week's menu plan, the current heat wave had not yet been forecast. Want to know what I'd originally planned for tonight? Lasagna. Lasagna that bakes in a 400 degree oven. NO WAY that was happening today, when temps here hit 102.

But...I did have a large bunch of chard to use up. And a container of ricotta in the fridge, that I purchased a while back for reasons now unclear to me, which was nearing its expiration date. And (so I thought) lasagna noodles. And some mozzarella.

So, I came up with a compromise: skillet lasagna. I made a quick tomato sauce with olive oil, garlic, canned tomatoes and basil. Then I reached for the box of lasagna noodles...only to find that I didn't have any. Instead I parboiled some ziti and mixed together the ricotta, an egg, a handful of grated parmesan, and a dollop of freshly made pesto. I put a little tomato sauce in a large skillet, scattered half the ziti on top, then plopped spoonfuls of the ricotta mixture all over. I placed handfuls of chopped chard on top of that, then the remaining ziti, and finally the rest of the sauce poured over everything. I put a lid on the skillet and let everything simmer for about 25 minutes (long enough to cook the egg and bring the pasta to al dente). Then I removed the lid and scattered some shredded mozzarella on top, letting it melt.

The verdict? All the flavors of lasagna, none of the oven heat! And most of the stovetop time is a) unattended and b) covered so you're not standing over a hot pot stirring and sweating. Granted, on a hot day like this I might have preferred a lighter meal (or perhaps just an ice cream cone!), but I'm happy to have used up the ingredients and eaten a delicious meal! I'll be making a skillet lasagna again...but maybe I'll wait til there's some snow on the ground. And until I have some actual lasagna noodles in the pantry.

A little red, white and blue for the 4th...


Here's a little firecracker you can pop right into your mouth. Bright red Peppadew peppers, stuffed with crumbled blue cheese.

Peppadews were probably trendy a few years ago- I tend to lag behind like that- but they're still mighty tasty. I love the combo of sweetness and heat they pack, and I especially like that their heat is not accompanied by the burn you experience with some other peppers. Combine that piquanté pepper flavor with the tang of blue cheese and you've got a delicious mouthful.

If, like me, you're a bit behind the curve, you can read about Peppadews on the company's website and check out some recipe ideas while you're there.

Happy 4th, all!

CSA 2010: Week 8

6:53 AM by Stephanie 0 comments
Still feeling green, but we got a break from the kale this week. Never fear, it'll be back later in the season! I'm looking forward to some summer squash and tomatoes soon...

Basil
Escarole
Scallions
Lettuce
Cucumber
Chard
Garlic
New potatoes!

I was thinking I might make a chard lasagna this week...until I saw that the weather forecast is for 98-99 degrees most days. Ugh! We will not be turning on the oven for a while. Maybe I'll investigate skillet lasagna recipes and adapt something...

CSA 2010: Week 7, plus a farmer's market visit

Phew! This week was broccoli-free. But they did have 4 heads of lettuce for us, and since we're going to be away for a few nights this week (and I'll admit we still have some lettuce in the fridge from last week), I only took two and placed the others in the donation box for the local soup kitchen.

We also made a stop at the Montgomery farmer's market, where we picked up a few ears of sweet corn, some tomatoes (local, but greenhouse-grown), basil, snap peas, a delicious walnut-blue cheese fougasse, and tart cherries (cobbler tonight, woo!).

The farm haul for this week:

4 heads of lettuce
Kale (I am approaching my kale saturation point for the year)
Chard
Garlic
Cucumber
Basil
Spring onions

Our newsletter said they're hoping to have summer squash and tomatoes in time for July 4th...yeah! Meanwhile, this will be another salad-filled week.

Making a dent in the broccoli

Six heads of broccoli is, well, a lot. And I'm sort of dreading the possibility of receiving more in tomorrow's CSA share. We ate one head steamed, as a side dish with dinner. Another (very large) head got chopped up, sauteed with some extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper, and served over spaghetti. Then I used two more heads to make a broccoli salad.

You know the broccoli salad I'm talking about, right? It always seems to turn up at potlucks and barbecues. Basically, it's chopped raw broccoli tossed in a tangy mayo and vinegar dressing, usually along with some red onion and raisins. Often you see sunflower seeds tossed in, maybe some shredded cheddar, and sometimes crisp crumbled bacon. I've quite liked some of the versions I've tasted, but there's a lot of mayo-induced guilt to be found in that dressing. One version that I found online calls for 1 cup of mayonnaise in a salad containing 6 cups of broccoli. That would make for a one gloppy salad! And all that mayonnaise also made the salad a no-go in our house since the mayo-hating Mr. H. wouldn't eat it.

Until last year, I'd never actually made a broccoli salad myself. Then one day I happened across a recipe printed in a magazine ad for Cabot cheese. I was intrigued by their version of the dressing: plain yogurt stands in for most of the mayonnaise, and honey replaces the sugar. So I went ahead and tried their recipe, and I really liked it. The dressing has a great tangy sweetness, and the combination of crunchy raw broccoli, red onion, dried fruit and sharp cheddar is delicious. Even better, Mr. H. ate it...and had seconds, despite the very small amount of mayo in the dressing!

Here's a link to Cabot's recipe. It calls for either raisins or cranberries; I prefer the flavor and bright color added by the cranberries. It also gives an option of sunflower seeds or walnuts, and I chose walnuts. I skipped the crumbled bacon, but honestly that salty flavor would be a welcome addition here. This is a great summer salad, because you don't have to cook anything. Just chop chop chop, and you're good to go. It's also pretty served in a clear glass bowl. See?

Pre-dressing:


Post-dressing and topping (hmm, not a great photo, but you get the idea):


And another two heads of broccoli bite the dust! Four down, two to go...

Friday night sandwiches: Nutella and banana panini

9:30 AM by Stephanie 0 comments

It was Ryan's turn to choose tonight's sandwich, and he went for gooey chocolate-y goodness. Okay, okay, I'll admit it- he got the idea from me. I've made these sandwiches before. And I certainly can't blame him for wanting to have them again, as they're delicious.

This is an easy one (everything I make these days is pretty easy). Slice some sourdough or french bread about 1/2" thick. Spread one side of each piece with Nutella. Cover one slice w/ sliced banana, and place another Nutella-covered slice on top (Nutella-side down, of course). Brush the outsides with a little softened butter and place in a panini grill till the bread is crisp, and the Nutella is nice and melty. No panini grill? Just cook them like you would a grilled cheese sandwich, in a skillet.

Yeah, it's like eating dessert first. But don't worry, I served the sandwiches with a side of veggies and some fresh fruit!

Next week, it's my turn to choose again- we'll be picnicking at our town's annual fireworks show, so I'll have to pick something portable...

CSA 2010: Week 6.

In this week's share: broccoli galore!

I had the day off today...sort of. It was closing day at Ryan's co-op preschool, which meant lots of cleaning. My job was cleaning all of the cubbies of a year's worth of cracker crumbs, glitter, sand, dried mud and I-don't-want-to-know-what-else.

Anyway, Jason did the honors and picked up this week's share while I was off vacuuming and scrubbing. He even managed it with both boys in tow! And what a share it was:

-Cabbage
-Kale
-Arugula
-Lots more lettuce
-Fresh garlic
AND
-6 heads of broccoli!

You read that right, SIX heads of broccoli! Fitting it all in the fridge was a real chore. I don't even want to know what the people who get family-sized shares did with their 12 heads of broccoli! I have a plan for some of it, but I think some will just get chopped and blanched and stowed in the freezer. Jason's going to be out of town for a few days and there's no way the boys and I can eat that much broccoli by ourselves!

Friday night sandwich night: Island Wraps

7:18 AM by Stephanie 0 comments
Aw, man, I forgot to take a picture!

This week it was the husband's turn to pick our Friday night sandwich. Ryan presented him with a sandwich cookbook and told him he could pick anything except the veggie burgers since that's what Ryan wants to pick on his next turn. So, Jason chose a recipe called Island Wraps, which consist of a quick homemade black bean hummus spread on flour tortillas, then topped with some baby spinach, sauteed plantain slices, and salsa.

Have you ever had sauteed plantains? They're delicious! They're my favorite part of having dinner at our local Cuban restaurant, Martino's. (Well, second-favorite, behind the incredible tres leches cake.) The first trick is finding plantains at the grocery store, and the second trick is letting them get really, really ripe. If you're lucky, your grocery store will carry both green AND ripe plantains. This week, I was lucky, and my store had some that were ready to use: almost all black with just a little yellow left on the peels. To peel them, you simply cut off both ends, then make a slit down the side and gently pull the peel off. I sliced the plantains into 1/4" rounds and let them cook for a few minutes on each side in a hot skillet coated with vegetable oil. Once they are nicely browned on each side, they're removed from the pan and sprinkled with salt.

While the plantains were cooking, I pureed a can of black beans in the food processor along with some tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Very quick and simple. If I'd had good fresh tomatoes and a jalapeno on hand, I'd have made a salsa fresca. But alas, no tomatoes, so I used jarred pineapple salsa. Not bad, but I think fresh would have been better, and the kick from the jalapeno would have been a welcome flavor addition.

I thought these were pretty tasty and definitely a change of pace for the taste buds. Jason liked them too and Aiden enjoyed his baby-sized serving of plantains, while Ryan wouldn't even try the plantains. I should have lied and said they were bananas. Regardless of the rejection by Ryan, I'd definitely make these again.

Chard tacos eaten w/ a fork


(I could've sworn I blogged this non-recipe before, but I don't see it in the archives. I'm happily posting it now regardless, because it's that good.)

Chard is one of the many vegetables that never really made its way into my kitchen until we joined a CSA. Then we began receiving huge bunches of all kinds of leafy greens- chard, kale, collards- that seemed daunting just on the basis of the amount of space they took up in the fridge. (Ever try to stuff an enormous bunch of chard into your crisper drawer? Not happening in my fridge.) So, over the years, I've learned how to use these nutritional powerhouse veggies in a variety of ways. And one of those ways is chard tacos.

I mentioned that Jason just brought me a big bag of fresh corn tortillas. Onions on the counter, chard and a chunk of salty feta in the fridge? Check, check, and check. You don't need much else. Here's what I did:

I sliced up a few onions and put them in a skillet to caramelize. While the onions cooked down, I crumbled the feta into a small bowl. I rinsed the chard and tore the leaves from the ribs, then coarsely chopped the leaves. When the onions were done, I scooped them out of the skillet and into a bowl. Then I heated some olive oil in the same skillet, added some minced garlic and crushed red pepper, and let it sizzle just long enough to flavor the oil. I dropped the still-damp chopped chard into the skillet and tossed it with tongs until it was wilted.

Then I ran into a problem. We like soft corn tacos, rather than crisp shells. I heated my tortillas the way I usually do, in the skillet with some oil, just a few seconds on each side...and the tongs I was using kept tearing holes in them, making them rather useless as taco holders. Who knew there could be a downside to super-fresh and super-moist tortillas? Next time I might try steaming them or just wrapping them in foil and putting them in the oven instead. No big deal though- instead of filling the tacos and eating them out of hand, we just piled pieces of warm tortilla on our plates, mounded some chard and onions on top, and sprinkled with the feta.

This would also be a great dish with the addition of some warm pinto beans, either on the side or as part of the taco, and of course any salty cheese would be welcome here.

The husband brought me a sack of tortillas


...and I feel like such a lucky girl. Jason travels to New Mexico a few times a year for work. Because he is a smart and sweet sort of husband, he brings me stuff when he comes back. Sometimes green chiles, sometimes delightful piñon candy-with-a-kick from Señor Murphy in Santa Fe, sometimes pistachios (red or green chile flavored, of course). And usually tortillas, too. Really delicious freshly made corn tortillas.

Somehow, the corn tortillas I get in the stores here are always dry, and usually pretty thin. But the ones Jason brought home are much more moist, thick, and tender, with a true fresh corn flavor. They're wonderful right out of the bag. Later on we'll make some great tacos and enchiladas with them.

But this day was warm, and by late afternoon it was also quite humid. We'd spent a good portion of the day outside and I was feeling hot and tired. Time for a beer on the deck. And to accompany that beer- homemade chips with salsa. They're so quick to make.

While the vegetable oil heats in a cast iron skillet or pot over medium-high heat, you cut or tear the tortillas into pieces. Set a large plate lined with a paper towel next to the stove and get out a pair of tongs, too. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle a piece of tortilla on contact, carefully slide a batch of tortilla pieces into the oil. After a minute or two, use the tongs to flip the chips over. You want to see them change color by a shade or two, but don't let them get brown. It's a very short distance from brown to burned. When the chips are golden and crisp, use the tongs to remove them to the paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle lightly with salt. It takes just a few minutes to do several batches, enough for a small bowlful of chips.

Few things are better than a cold beer, crisp chips, and salsa. Very few things.

CSA 2010: Week 5

5:13 PM by Stephanie 0 comments

Keeping it green! Not pictured: LOTS of lettuce, kale.

This week's share:

Kale
Chard
Broccoli
Snow peas
Green garlic
Fennel
Lettuce

Really excited about the fennel and broccoli- yum! Looking like the last week for peas- the plants were pretty picked over and sad.

I'm thinking about some garlicky chard tacos for dinner tonight, a gorgeous stir-fry tomorrow night, and my favorite greens and potatoes dish later this week. And salad, of course. Lots of salad.

Pasta with chickpeas and chard


Another dinner that combined pantry staples with our CSA bounty to yield a nice healthy dish. You have to love pasta for the way it's just a blank canvas, waiting to have its bland but toothsome carb-y goodness sparked with whatever flavors you choose. I had a big bag of chard from the CSA, and I needed a quick dinner.

A glance into the pantry led me to a box of rotini and a can of chickpeas. While the pasta cooked in salted water, I cleaned and trimmed the chard. I poured the cooked pasta into a colander, the put the pot right back on the hot stove. Poured in a little olive oil, let it warm up, then added some garlic and crushed red pepper. Waited another minute or so, then dropped in the chard and tossed with tongs until it was wilted, and good and garlicky. Added the drained chickpeas and dumped the pasta back in, then tossed some more, until everything was heated through. A squeeze of lemon, a shower of grated parmesan, and that was that.

Simple snow peas

8:57 PM by Stephanie 1 comments

Between our CSA share and the pea patch in our backyard, I had over a pound of snow peas to work with this week. Everyone should be so lucky, right?

Some of them were slivered and tossed, raw, with slivered radishes, olive oil, salt, pepper, and shaved parmesan. They made a delicious fresh and crunchy salad. And the rest became tonight's super-simple dinner. I blanched the peas for just 30 seconds, then rinsed them in cold water to stop them from cooking any further. Scallions, ginger and garlic sizzled in a mix of peanut and sesame oil in my skillet. Then I tossed in the peas, some diced Soy Boy tofu lin (a favorite fridge staple), sesame seeds and a drizzle of sriracha sauce. Ta-da! Add a side of rice, and you have dinner!

CSA 2010: Week 4

Well, I was wrong when I guessed that we'd see larger quantities of strawberries soon! It sounds like strawberry season is winding down, and the biggest amount we got in any one week was only a pint. So disappointing! In past years we often got 1-2 quarts a week as part of our share. Wonder why the amounts were so much lower this year. Ah well. That's part of being a CSA member- what you get varies from year to year. And I can't complain about the quality- the berries were as sweet and perfect as always.

Our share this week:

1/2 pint strawberries
1 pint peas
1 bunch kale
1/4 lb. arugula
2 heads lettuce
2 bunches scallions
1/2 lb. chard

The berries and lettuce are gone; I'll use the chard tonight in a pasta dish along with some chickpeas and lemon, and maybe make an arugula salad on the side. Thinking about a scallion pesto with some of the scallions...

Weekend mornings...


are for special breakfasts! Ryan loves helping me make pancakes or waffles, so I try to make them once a week or so. My favorite waffle recipe includes whole wheat and pecans (very yummy with sliced bananas or peaches on top), but recently we tried a new recipe from Cook's Illustrated that was quite tasty.

I can always count on Cook's Illustrated to come up with a novel way to make familiar foods. A few years back I tried their vodka pie dough (yes, you read that right, vodka pie dough) and I may never use another pie crust recipe. It's super-easy to work with and turns out a flavorful, flaky crust (and you don't taste the vodka). Well, today's waffle recipe had a surprise ingredient too: seltzer. Many waffle recipes call for separating the eggs and then beating the whites and folding them in to the batter; this gives you nice light waffles. While doing their usual tinkering with ingredients and techniques to come up with the "best" waffle recipe, the folks at Cook's Illustrated discovered that seltzer would provide that same lightness in the batter without the extra effort of separating the eggs and whipping the whites.

And whaddaya know? The waffles baked up nicely, had a great tang from both sour cream and buttermilk powder, and were light and fluffy as promised with a crisp exterior. A bonus for Mr. H.: they are less eggy than our usual waffles (in addition to being anti-condiment, Mr. H. is also anti-egg). They were a great backdrop for some sliced berries from the CSA farm.

Oh happy morning!

CSA 2010: Week 3

9:56 AM by Stephanie 0 comments
Greens galore! This week's share:

2 bunches kale
4 heads lettuce
1 lb. spinach
1/4 lb. arugula
1/2 pint strawberries

I know the berry quantities sound puny, but it's still early in the season. In past years, the first day of strawberry picking wasn't even until Memorial Day weekend, and in 2010 we're already at week 3 of berries. So I'm hoping that much larger yields are still to come!

I've already used most of the spinach and all of the arugula. I'm planning to blanch, chop and freeze the kale for later use- it stands up really well to freezing- or maybe make my favorite potatoes and greens dish. And as for the lettuce...salad days continue!

Ooh La La!

Another Friday sandwich night at our house, and this time Ryan got to choose the sandwich. He paged through a cookbook of mine and selected one called the "Ooh La La!" Since the recipe title gives nothing away, I'll fill you in. The Ooh La La consists of turkey, melted brie, raspberry mayo, and lettuce, all piled onto a buttery croissant. I described this to my sister on the phone last night and she said "That sounds...kind of disgusting." Hee.

Actually, it wasn't a terrible combo at all. I skipped the raspberry mayo (which was simply raspberry jam stirred into jarred mayo) and just used the jam* (see my mini-rant on the jam later). Mr H., as I've mentioned, is generally anti-condiment and mayo is the most evil condiment of them all in his book, but he likes jam. I was out of lettuce (gasp! can you believe we finished 3 heads of lettuce with a day to spare before the next CSA pickup?!) so I used some fresh spinach leaves. And my sandwich was, of course, turkey-free.

So, I made the sandwiches. The croissants get split open. The bottom halves are piled with turkey (or not) and topped with slices of brie, then run quickly under the broiler just until the cheese is nice and melty. Once out of the oven, I laid a few spinach leaves over the cheese, spread jam on the other half of each croissant, and placed them on top.

The verdict? My turkey-free version was fine- a little rich between the brie and croissant. Mr H. seemed to like his. Ryan ate half his sandwich rapidly, then said suspiciously "What's THIS?" referring to the cheese. Ryan is weird about cheese. He likes REAL parmigiano-reggiano. He'll eat mozzarella on pizza and sometimes will eat melted cheddar in a quesadilla. Otherwise, he's down on cheese. I told him the brie was fancy French cheese, since he is currently obsessed with Paris (don't ask), but he was unmoved. Sigh. So he nibbled away at some of the turkey on the second half of his sandwich but didn't finish it. Overall, probably not a repeater, but definitely a unique entry in our Friday sandwich night series.

Next week, we're having very special guests for dinner, and they'll be making the sandwich selection for us!

*The jam rant: My usual jam of choice is Polaner All-Fruit. But recently this seems to have been replaced on store shelves with Polaner All-Fruit with FIBER. And that's what Mr. H. brought home last night from the store, not realizing it was any different from what we usually buy. Can someone please explain to me why we need added fiber in JAM? I'm so tired of finding surprise ingredients and additions in products I previously liked. Seriously-if you need fiber in your diets, people, eat whole grains, beans, and fruits and veggies.

Salad days...

Two heads of lettuce down, one to go...

It is hot hot HOT here, and I don't know about you, but on 90+ degree day I have no desire to turn on the oven or eat a heavy meal. We have no problem making a meal out of giant salads!

Last night's salade du jour was arugula with fresh mozzarella, kalamata olives, white beans, and red onions, with a lemon-basil vinaigrette and crispy onions on top. Lots of big flavors in there- slightly bitter arugula, salty olives, sharp red onion, and then the textural contrast of the crisp onions. Yum.

And tonight, we went with a Greek-style salad. Feta, olives, cucumber, onion, tomatoes, bell pepper, radishes from our garden, and onion along with a big pile of greens. To make the meal a little more substantial, I made a quick batch of chickpea patties- basically, just chickpeas, garlic, parsley and spices smushed in a food processor, then pan-fried until crisp. Think pared-down falafel. They made a nice topper for the salad.

We'll knock off the last head of lettuce in side salads the next two nights. Now I just need to figure out what to do with the spinach...and then I can enjoy empty crisper drawers for about 12 hours, until the next CSA share is doled out on Saturday morning!

CSA 2010: Week 2

Time to get out the salad recipes!

This week's share included:

3 heads of lettuce (green leaf and red leaf)
1/2 lb. spinach
1/2 lb. arugula
1 pint strawberries

As usual, the strawberries are already gone. We ate them unadorned at lunch and dinner. They were utter perfection. I figure there's no point in hoarding them when they're at their best freshly picked. Ryan had better watch out- he used to have dibs on the berries but now that Aiden has discovered how delicious they are, Ryan has competition! Aiden scarfed down berries as fast as I could cut them up for him today.

The lettuces are HUGE. I bought lots of salad ingredients at the grocery store today, so we'll see what I can come up with this week. When we were walking to the strawberry field, we passed a huge bed of all kinds of lettuces, which I'm sure we'll be receiving in our share in the weeks to come. Usually I manage to get through a few weeks of 3+ heads of lettuce/week before I start to lose steam and tire of seeing bags of greens filling both crisper drawers plus several shelves of the fridge!

Friday night is sandwich night!

Last fall, in an effort to simplify weekly meal planning and get Ryan, age 4, involved in the process, I declared that Friday nights would be pizza nights. Not takeout pizza- homemade pizza. Each week, one family member gets to pick the toppings and that's the pizza I make. It was fun and easy- Ryan looked forward to it every week and tried some new toppings, and when Aiden's teeth started to come in, he decided he liked pizza a lot.

Now that summer is approaching and it's getting hot out, I'm not so inclined to turn the oven on to 500 degrees every Friday night. So for the summer season, we're replacing pizza night with sandwich night! Again, the idea is to keep things nice and easy, and give each family member a turn at picking out a sandwich for me to make. This is a meal we can easily enjoy while relaxing on the deck, with a cold end-of-the-week drink for the grown-ups, and there's minimal cleanup involved for Mr. H.

This week was Mr. H's turn to pick, and he chose a variation on grilled cheese: grilled cheddar with apples and baby spinach on sourdough. Sounded good to me, and it was! I slathered some honey mustard on my bread before adding the other fillings; Mr. H is anti-condiment so his sandwich was mustard-free. I was surprised and pleased that Ryan didn't even hesitate to eat this combination- I *almost* made him a plain grilled cheese, but then I went ahead and made him the same sandwich as the grown-ups, and he ate it. Even Aiden scarfed down some baby-sized bites of sandwich! On the side we had potato chips, and a salad of bibb lettuce and strawberries in a sweet poppyseed vinaigrette. Nice way to end the week, right?

Weeknight potato salad

I love potato salad. All kinds of potato salad. But the husband hates mayonnaise, which automatically removes approximately half of all potato salad recipes from contention for the dinner table at our house. Drat.

This recipe, however, does the trick when I want a fairly quick potato salad to go with sandwiches or veggie burgers. It evolved from one that I found years ago in one of Mollie Katzen's cookbooks. In her recipe, she calls for boiling diced potatoes in a mixture of one part vinegar to five parts water, until the potatoes are just tender . That's pretty much the only part I remember at this point, but it's the key information. What you do next is up to you. Here's what I do:

-I use about 2 lbs red potatoes, cut into about 1/2" dice. I don't bother peeling them.
-For the vinegar, I use red wine or white wine vinegar
-I put about a teaspoon of kosher salt into the pot along with the potatoes

Once the potatoes are tender, drain them and transfer to a bowl. Then the fun begins. While the potatoes are still warm...

-Drizzle with olive oil
-Season with salt, pepper, or other spices
-Toss in some chopped fresh herbs: chives, basil, oregano, cilantro- whatever you like
-Mince a clove of garlic and stir it in- or not.
-Add anything else you like- halved cherry or grape tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, roasted garlic, some minced chipotle in adobo sauce, diced bell pepper or roasted pepper, minced red onion or scallion, thinly sliced zucchini, corn kernels, black beans, white beans...
-Taste and adjust seasonings- a little more olive oil? a squeeze of lemon? more freshly ground pepper? Go for it!

And then serve warm, at room temp, or chilled. If you serve it cooled/chilled, you can also add a bit of grated or crumbled cheese to the salad.

But really, all you need to remember is this: 1 cup of vinegar to 5 cups water. Then make it your own and enjoy!

ADHD and pesticides?

2:47 PM by Stephanie 0 comments
Today, CNN published a story about new research linking childhood ADHD with pesticide exposure.

Oy. Yes, it's just one study. Yes, the study has some limitations (such as the fact that they only measured pesticide levels one time per child- we don't know how much those levels might fluctuate over the short and long terms). No, there's no definitive causal link between the two at this point. But in my opinion, it's yet another reason to be particularly thoughtful about the choices we make when feeding our kids, and it makes me feel even more committed to choosing organic and/or local produce for my family whenever possible.

If you haven't already seen it, the Environmental Working Group recently published its 2010 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides, which includes a list of the "dirty dozen" most contaminated fruits and veggies (would you have guessed that celery would top the list?), and the "clean fifteen" that are least likely to be contaminated. You can even print out a handy wallet-sized copy of the list to carry with you to the store. I know it will help me make more informed decisions in the produce section.

Dinner Tonight: May 16

I've had a mini-cold for a week and am pretty sleep deprived thanks to the baby, who thinks it's cool to wake up with the neighborhood "dawn chorus" of birds at 5 A.M. each day. Days like this call for an easy meal- easy to prepare, easy to clean up.

So here's what we tried: Liar's Soup. What? Yep, Liar's Soup. This recipe's been around on the internet for a while; I think it originated in Real Simple magazine. I think the idea behind the title is that it's so good you could get away with saying you slaved over a hot stove all day to make it. What's in it? One jar of Rao's marinara sauce* one can of cannellini beans, one cup of vegetable broth, one clove of garlic, a squeeze of lemon, some salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. What do you have to do? Dump it all in a pot, blitz it with a hand blender til pureed, heat it up, and eat it. Yup, that's all. What's in it for you? A flavorful, satisfying, and EASY meal. Alongside, we had bread and an arugula (from the CSA!) salad with shaved parmesan and almonds.

And there you go. A healthy dinner in no time flat.

*I've never been to Rao's restaurant in NYC, or even tried their marinara sauce before today. I mean, $9 for a jar of spaghetti sauce? Not generally in my budget. But it was on sale this week, and I remembered this recipe. I tasted the sauce before pouring it into the pot, and will admit it's very, very good. The soup recipe as I found it says the sauce "must be Rao's." Of course, I read that as a challenge, and now I have to try it with another (cheaper!) brand. If I do any experimenting, I'll let you know what I find.

CSA 2010: Week 1

Woo hoo! The farm is open for the season! After a morning trip to the dentist and two newly filled cavities (boo), Ryan and I headed out to Honey Brook. Beautiful day, too- sunny, breezy, warm but not hot.

Our share today was small- arugula, lettuce, and just 1/2 pint of strawberries- but it's always exciting to get out there and see all the plants that are just getting started for the season. Rows and rows of miniature lettuce heads that will provide salads for weeks (or even months) to come, raspberry canes sprouting new leaves, perennial herb beds springing to life, and lots of freshly plowed fields that will soon be home to tomato transplants and other crops. Plenty of deliciousness to look forward to.

The strawberries are perfect. Red through and through, juicy and sweet, and just about gone already! We can't wait for more next week

I'll use the arugula in a simple salad tomorrow night. The recipe is from the June issue of Everyday Food: Arugula Salad with Almonds and Parmesan. Now I just have to figure out what to serve with it...

I need a drink!

(Well, hello there! Long time no blog. I'll be back soon to talk about my plans for this spring and onward...)

So! After several weeks of rain, rain, more rain and a few puddles in our basement (ugh), the sun finally showed up to dry things out and warm us up! Today was beautiful, and at first opportunity I herded the boys outside so that the fresh spring air could work its magic on them and guarantee a good night's sleep. Chasing them around outside made this mama thirsty! And that means it's time for iced tea.

I love iced tea, but until last summer I didn't really know how to make it properly. I know, I know- how hard can it be, right? I don't even like anything fancy- just straight up tea, please, nothing herbal or fruity or super-sugary. I'd order it at a restaurant, unsweetened, then add just a hint of sugar and a squeeze of lemon. Ah...instant refreshment. When I tried making it at home, though, it was either too weak or too bitter and no amount of tinkering could make it drinkable.

After poking around on the web a bit, I combined tips gleaned from a few different sites and came up with this method for making my tea. It has just a touch of sweetness and is fairly strong without being bitter- perfect for pouring over ice. I made a pitcher of iced tea every few days all summer long. And today, I pulled out the pitcher for the first time this year. Ah...

Easy Iced Tea, my way

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Turn off the heat. Stir in 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar. Place 4 Lipton tea bags in the water and allow to brew for 30 minutes. Discard the tea bags and pour the tea into a 2-quart pitcher. Top off with water to the 2-quart line. Refrigerate until well chilled. Serve over ice, with lemon wedges if desired.