Posts tagged ‘recipe’

End-of-the-season stews

Autumn harvest still-lifeOur farmers’ market is … diminished. With just three weekends left this season, the number of vendors was down sharply this weekend, filling just half the municipal parking lot where the thing is held. It always makes me a little sad, and fills me with “hurry up and buy stuff before it’s all gone” fervor.

On the bright side, lots of the produce available now keeps well, with a little care. Apples, garlic, hard-skinned winter squash can last for a month or more, unrefrigerated, if you keep them in a cool, well-ventilated place. I’m reminded of the tornado shelter at my grandfather’s north Texas home – I’m not sure he ever used it to shelter from the weather, but his wife called it the root cellar, and stored vegetables and home-canned goods there year-round, because it was dark and cool and dry.

Root cellars have gone out of fashion, but I’ve kept apples for months by wrapping them individually in newsprint and setting them in a big, shallow cardboard box, not too closely crowded and unlidded, down in the garage that occupies half the daylight basement under my 1908 home. And I don’t think I’ve ever had a winter squash go bad on me, even sitting for 5-6 weeks in the basket on my kitchen counter. They’re pretty much built for storage.

This weekend, though, I’m focused on the short term, not the winter ahead. I’m in rehearsals through December, which means I leave the house for work at 7:30 in the morning and don’t get home till after 10 at night. If I don’t spend my Sundays cooking, I’ll spend a whole lot more money than I want to eating during the week. So I’m getting back in the habit of preparing good, hearty dishes that reheat well and lend themselves to portioning into containers I can carry to work for lunch and dinner. I try to come up with strong-flavored dishes, packed with nutrition and taste, so I don’t get bored before the week is over.

Stews serve the purpose – and also lend themselves to slow simmering while I go about my other weekend domestic maintenance.

Here’s what’s on the stove today: A rich autumn stew of pork, winter squash and apples, and a spicy vegetarian chili that’s quick to make and wonderful served over brown basmati rice or homemade cornbread. The first is almost entirely made with food I bought at the market yesterday; the second uses local turtle beans I put on to soak before bed last night, but could just as easily be made with canned black beans. These are both nutritionally dense, low-fat dishes, and easy to adjust to suit your own tastes.

The number of servings depends on how hungry people are and whether you’re serving the stew as a one-pot meal or a dinner course.  It looks like I’ll get 6-7 meal-sized servings from of each pot of autumn goodness. With cornbread and rice, I’m set for the week.

End-of-the-Season Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 acorn squash (or other winter squash of your choice
  • 1 lb lean pork, cut in cubes. Most stew recipes call for pork shoulder; I tend to buy tenderloins (because they’re small enough for one person). But you could just as easily use the meat off a few thick-sliced pork chops. Just trim off most of the fat so you don’t wind up with greasy soup.
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2-10 cloves of garlic, minced (I’m using a whole head’s worth, but I love garlic and got a lot of it at the market).
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cups good chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary (or 1/2tsp. dried)
  • 1 tsp minced fresh sage (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled (if you want) and cubed
  • 2 large carrots, sliced into discs
  • 2 tart apples, cored and cubed

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the squash in half; use a spoon to scoop out the seeds surrounding fiber. Oil the cut halves and place the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the skin can be pierced by a fork. Remove from oven, let cool enough to handle; peel off the rind (it will come off easily with your fingers) and cut squash into cubes. This can be done the day before.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Dredge the cubed pork in flour and cook in small batches until browned on all sides. Add the garlic and onion, lower the heat if needed to keep it from scorching, and continue cooking until the onion has softened. Add stock and stir to free any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add salt, rosemary and sage, potatoes and carrots. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add apples and squash. Return to a simmer, then cook, uncovered, until potatoes and apples are tender, about 20 minutes more. Taste, correct seasoning, and serve.

Black Bean Chili

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup applesauce (mine’s homemade)
  • Spices: This is where you get to shine. I like a lot of cumin in my chili, and I like heat; I still have fresh herbs in the garden. You know what you like. If your spice cabinet is modest, a couple of tablespoons of commercial chili powder would work. Here’s (approximately) what I used:
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 tsp dried ground chipotle pepper
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • 1 tsp fresh oregano (1 /2 teaspoon dried)
    • 1 tsp fresh rosemary (1/2 teaspoon dried)
    • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (1/4 teaspoon dried)
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cups black beans, soaked overnight (or two cans of black beans, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste (I’m using my oven-roasted tomato goo)
  • 2 -6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms (optional, but they add a nice heartiness to the dish. I’m using chanterelles)
  • Vegetable stock or water to cover.

Method:

In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, combine the applesauce with all the herbs and spices. Stir until well-blended. Stir in remaining ingredients, adding just enough stock or water to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it’s not thick enough for your taste, stir in a handful of cornmeal late in the cooking. Serve with cornbread and your favorite chili toppings (chopped onions, grated cheese, sour cream, etc.)

As with most chilis, this is better the second day – and I’ve found the heat doesn’t fully develop until then, so don’t get carried away if it doesn’t seem spicy enough to suit your tastes.

 

Advertisements

November 1, 2009 at 12:39 pm 3 comments

Fall harvest: Put some away for later

Market haul

Autumn market haul

Thanks to a packed schedule of work and theater, I haven’t been keeping this blog up the way I’d hoped to, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been neglecting the height of the harvest season. Far from it: at this time of year, practically every meal I eat (well, except the occasional hit-and-run “meal” of cheese and crackers or storebought hummus) is packed with local goodness: Tomatoes (yes, mine finally ripened). sweet corn, tomatoes (so did my next-door neighbor’s), eggplant, tomatoes, late-season berries, tomatoes …

Now the fall fruits are coming in. There were so many apple vendors at the market today that I went a little nuts, coming home with probably 20 pounds of gorgeous, crisp apples: Big, juicy Gravensteins, crisp little Daveys, Cox’s orange pippins, the quintessential English apple, and several heirloom varieties I can’t even remember.

I also picked up some perfectly ripe red Bartlett pears, a half-dozen late-season peaches, three beautiful little globe eggplants, an assortment of hot peppers, a nice big pork shoulder roast (I see slow-cooked pulled pork in my future), a dozen ears of yellow corn, two winter squash (a sugar pumpkin and a French heirloom variety, Galeux d’Eysines), and a pound of green beans.

A lot of food for one person, to be sure – but  I’m putting some away now for the months ahead, when fresh local produce will be hard to find and dear when you can find it.

I don’t can. I know how, but I have neither the equipment, the storage space nor the patience to stand over a hot canning kettle on a fine fall afternoon. I do, however, have a large freezer in the basement, and an ample collection of freezer containers. So I came home from the market, hauled out my trusty Applemaster and my big enameled cast-iron kettle, and set to work.

Four hours later, I’ve got several quarts of easy home-made applesauce, one of rosy-pink apple-pear sauce with dried cranberries, and some fabulously aromatic  peach chutney just off the stove and ready to spoon  into containers. Tomorrow, I’ll blanch the corn and cut it off the cob to freeze in meal-sized bags, and cook up a batch of eggplant curry to eat with some of that chutney. The squash will keep till next weekend, when I’ll roast and peel it and freeze the chunks for curries, soups and pies.

It’s getting late for local peaches, so you may want to squirrel this recipe away for next summer. It works best with slightly underripe fruit that’s still firm enough to stand up to the long cooking without completely disintegrating:

Autumn peach chutney

Peach Chutney

Autumn Peach Chutney

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 large peaches, peeled, pitted and cut in chunks
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 Serrano (or other hot pepper) seeded and minced
  • 1/4 of a red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3-4 Tbsp crystallized ginger, chopped fine
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 5-6 whole peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes (more if you like a very spicy chutney)
  • 1 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring. Turn heat very low and simmer 45 minutes-1 hour, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and brown (if the peaches are very juicy, it may take longer for the liquid to evaporate).

Cool and spoon into half-pint freezer containers, leaving some head-room for expansion as it freezes. Keeps well in the freezer for up to 6 months; thawed and refrigerated, it will keep for a few weeks. Goes great with curries, or as a sweet-sour-and-spicy condiment for pork, lamb or fowl.

September 27, 2008 at 5:47 pm 2 comments

Deconstructing Mom’s home cooking

Effortless pasta I am a child of the 1950s, the daughter of a woman who grew up hardscrabble-poor in Depression-era North Texas and went on to learn “modern” cooking and menu planning from Betty Crocker, and a man whose idea of Real Food involved meat, potatoes, and vegetables boiled all day (wtih fatback) on the back of the stove. Sometimes I think it’s a miracle I like food at all.

Take pasta: When I was a kid, we never heard the word, for one thing. It was spaghetti, or macaroni, or noodles, and it came in one of three forms: With red sauce, with American cheese, or as filler in the dish mom called “slumgully” (hamburger, celery, dried onion flakes and canned mushrooms, simmered in her biggest skillet with a sauce made of nothing but ketchup and pan juices, and served over enough flat egg noodles to fill up four hungry kids when there was more month left than money. We loved it. We were kids. What can I say?)

Spaghetti was a big deal, because (in those days before the coming of Ragu), mom made her own sauce, cooking it all day long on the back of the stove. It was mostly canned tomato sauce, canned tomato paste and a little bit of onion. No garlic – my dad didn’t like it. Herbs: Oregano and thyme, from jars that sat on the back of the stove and had about as much flavor as the dust that clung to their surfaces. Hamburger (because it wasn’t a proper meal without meat, except on Fridays), either cooked down until it became one with the sauce, or (for special occasions) formed into meatballs as big as a child’s fist, bound together with egg and corn-flake crumbs.

I don’t want to slander my mother. She actually had a pretty adventurous palate – I can remember her dragging six-year-old me and my little brother through the back streets of the Japanese town near the airbase where we were stationed, and egging us on to sample raw fish, strange soups and exotic vegetables. It’s just that she considered it her job to get three meals a day on the table for a picky husband and four ravenous kids, so she stuck with what was safe, filling – and bland.

Still, some tastes form early, and I do have a taste for pasta with meaty red sauce. Over the years, though, I’ve discovered the joys of sauces that aren’t cooked all day long, that include fresh ingredients and herbs and spices. The result is still comfort food, but it’s comfort food with flavor. Mom, rest her soul, would approve.

This past weekend, I hauled my visiting sweetie down to the market with me. We picked up strawberries, and scones, and a pound of the most excellent breakfast sausage from Wood Family Farm. If you’re an Albany Farmers’ Market habitué you’ve probably tasted or at least smelled it; Dan Wood likes to keep a skillet of sausage simmering at his booth to tempt passersby, and tempting stuff it is, lean and well-seasoned. We took our sausage home and set it out to thaw, thinking to have it for Sunday breakfast. But we wound up going out for breakfast instead, my sweetie took the train back to Seattle – and here I was with a pound of sausage that needed cooking.

And though the weather forecast calls for unseasonable heat by week’s end, it’s still chilly tonight, so I came home from work and went straight for the comfort food: Pasta with an easy, flavorful sauce that took hardly any effort to prepare.

You may not have oven-roasted tomatoes in your freezer. I was kind of surprised to discover that I did – I thought I’d used the last container from the 2007 harvest. I was delighted to find I still had about a pint of the stuff – but it’s not essential. You can make this with fresh tomatoes (well, not quite yet, perhaps), or with canned tomatoes, or sun-dried tomatoes. It’s hard to go wrong. And you can substitute the heck out of the ingredients, too.

Pasta with easy, meaty red sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean,bulk breakfast sausage, locally made if you can find it
  • Half a small onion, diced
  • A few (or more) cloves of garlic, minced
  • A generous handful of fresh mushrooms (if you like them), coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups oven-roasted tomatoes, OR any combination of
    • Ripe, meaty tomatoes, chopped coarsely

    • Sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted in a little hot water (or if you’re using the kind that’s packed in oil, drained)
    • Canned, diced tomatoes. I like the low-salt ones
  • Handful of fresh basil, chopped (I skipped this, because I use a ton of basil in my oven-roasted tomatoes)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • Pasta of your choice (I used rotini)
  • Good grated parmesan, not the tasteless stuff in the green can

Method

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, break up the sausage with a wooden spoon, and stir around a bit to start it browning. Stir in the onion, garlic and mushrooms, turn the heat down low, and put a lid on the pan (I don’t have a lid that fits my skillet, so I use a pizza pan).

Go away for 10 minutes or so. A pocket oven timer comes in handy if you’re prone to getting distracted answering your e-mail.

Come back, give everything a stir. The onions and garlic should be soft by now, the mushrooms looking cooked, and the sausage pretty well cooked through. Dump in tomatoes-of-your-choice. Add herbs. Stir, cover, and go away for another 10 minutes or so.

When you come back, put a big pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Taste the sauce (don’t burn your tongue!) and correct the seasoning if necessary. It should be starting to taste like sauce, rather than its component parts, but will probably be pretty watery. Remove the lid, give it another stir, turn the heat back up to medium and let it simmer and sputter while you cook the pasta according to the package directions.

By the time the pasta is done and drained, the sauce should have reduced down a bit and thickened some. If it’s not quite ready, no worry, just toss the noodles with a little olive oil so they don’t stick while you finish the sauce. When it looks and tastes ready, ladle it generously over the noodles, sprinkle with a little parmesan, and enjoy.

This takes all of about 30 minutes to prepare, and very little of that is spent at the stove. The quantity described here could serve 2-4 people, depending on how hungry they are, and if you need to feed more, just do what mom did: Cook more noodles.

May 13, 2008 at 8:42 pm Leave a comment

When life gives you apples …

Apples for tasting at the Albany farmers' marketIt was rainy and cold at the market yesterday, and the dwindling number of vendors huddled behind the windbreaks of their booths, bundled in caps and sweaters and blowing on their hands to warm them before they counted change.

Not many shoppers, either, but several vendors told me sales were good. At this time of year, I suppose, the casual browsers stay home, leaving the market to the hardcore among us, eager to stock up on good things before the end of the season.

Right now “good things” include, significantly, apples, and even though the growers say this year’s harvest isn’t great, I’ve been glorying in the huge array of heirloom apples being brought to market by local orchards such as Antique Apples and First Fruits Farm. Like most people who grew up on supermarket produce, I used to think of apples as the fruit you bought when there wasn’t anything better around, or if you wanted to bake a pie. Learning the vibrant flavors, aromas and textures of old-fashioned apples has changed all that, and I look forward to the apples of autumn as much as the peaches of summer.

We’ve brought home big bags of apples every market Saturday for the past few weeks, enjoying them in crisps, or just eaten out of hand. But I also made a batch of applesauce, and it disappeared so fast that this weekend I did my apple shopping with sauce specifically in mind, and lots of it – enough to freeze a few quarts for later in the season.

On conferring with the Antique Apples vendor, I came home with Esopus Spitzenbergs (Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple), Golden Russets, Gravensteins, a few Jonagolds for tartness, and some tasty little Davy and Smokehouse apples. And sauce-making ensued.

There’s no mystery or trick to making applesauce: Cut up some apples, simmer them in a little water until they’re soft, moosh them up and you’ve got basic applesauce. Everything else – to sweeten or not, to spice or not, smooth or chunky – is a matter of personal preference.

Me, I like a chunky, spicy applesauce, not too sweet. I can’t be bothered with canning, so whatever isn’t destined for immediate eating gets frozen in 2 cup-to-one-quart containers. Here’s what passes for my recipe:

Ingredients

  • Several pounds of apples, some sweet and some tart, peeled, cored and sliced (for this quantity, I get out the Applemaster, which is as much fun as it is efficient. Wheeeee, long spiral ribbons of apple peel!!!)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cups of port (you can skip this, but I like the rosy color and subtle fragrance it adds to the sauce)
  • 1/4 cup or so of candied ginger, chopped coarsely
  • Cinnamon. I like a lot of cinnamon – as much as a tablespoon for a big batch. If you don’t, use less. Or none at all.
  • 1/4 cup sugar or more, depending on the apples and how sweet you like your sauce. I prefer mine on the tart-and-tangy side.
  • Secret ingredient: If you have access to them, quinces are a wonderful addition to applesauce. Their more-apple-than-apples-themselves perfume and tart flavor add a subtle brightness to the sauce. They require longer cooking than the apples; I usually cook them separately and add the cooked quince to the applesauce when it’s nearly done.

Method:

In a big, heavy-bottomed pot (I use my enameled cast iron Dutch oven), combine everything but the sugar, and add enough water to cover the bottom of the pot, if necessary. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to just simmering. Cover.

Cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour (depending on quantity and variety of apples), stirring occasionally to make sure the fruit doesn’t scorch. This will begin breaking up the apples, too. Enjoy the fragrance of apples that fills your kitchen and wafts out into the house.
When apples are tender but not yet falling apart, taste and stir in sugar to the desired level of sweetness. If the mixture is soupy, leave the lid off to reduce the juice a bit while you finish cooking.

Remove from heat, and stir/smoosh until the sauce is as chunky or smooth as you like. I use my mom’s old iron potato masher, which she inherited from her own grandmother, to break up any big pieces of apple. If you prefer a smooth applesauce, you can let it cool and press it through a sieve or food mill, the old-fashioned way, or just run it through the food processor. Pour into freezer containers, leaving a little head space for expansion.

Mooshing applesauce with mom's potato masher

Mmmm, applesauce.

October 21, 2007 at 3:39 pm 1 comment


July 2019
S M T W T F S
« Aug    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Feeds