Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Beef Kebabs

The bell peppers are starting to accumulate in my fridge. My onion bowl in the pantry is getting fuller and fuller. My freezer is stuffed to the gills with meat. What in the world should I make for supper? Beef Kebabs! I used a sirloin steak (I know, I should have weighed it first to see how big it was. I am guessing between 1 - 2 lbs, it was rather large), mushrooms, bell peppers (green and purple), and onions. I thought about adding zucchini too, but I didn't think that would be something many of us would have enjoyed so I skipped it. We served these over rice with sides of baba ganoush and pita, and cucumber and tomato slices. Another nice easy summer meal that doesn't heat up the kitchen much on these 100+ degrees days that have become entirely too common this summer.

Beef Kebabs
adapted from Steven Raichlen's Barbeque Bible

1 -2 lbs sirloin steak or tenderloin, cut into 1" cubes
6 mushrooms, quartered
2 bell peppers, cut into chunks
1 medium or 2 small onions, cut into wedges

extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c mixed fresh herbs: any combination of basil, parsley, rosemary, oregano
1 garlic clove, minced
coarse salt
black pepper

Drizzle olive oil over steak or tenderloin in a 9 x 13" pan. Toss with fresh herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cover with foil and marinade in the refrigerator 1 - 2 hours. To prepare kebabs, alternate vegetables and beef. Cook on grill for 2 - 3 minutes per side (for a total of 10 - 12 minutes), until meat is cooked as desired and vegetables are tender.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Berry Jam Muffins

These are my new favorite blueberry muffins. You can use any berry in these, I've tried both raspberries and blueberries, but I prefer blueberry. You can also use any berry jam in these as well. They make just a dozen and don't last very long at all.

Berry Jam Muffins
adapted from Joy the Baker who adapted it from the Gourmet Cookbook

6 T unsalted butter
1/3 c milk (whole milk is preferable, but skim works fine)
1 lg egg
1 lg egg yolk
3/4 t vanilla
1 c flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1/2 - 1 c frozen or fresh blueberries (or whatever berry you may have that you want to use)
3 T strawberry, blueberry, or blackberry jam (or any other berry jam--that's just the ones I've used)

For the topping
1 1/2 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/4 c flour
1 1/2 T sugar

Melt butter. Whisk in milk, egg, yolk, and vanilla until well combined. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a separate medium bowl. Add milk mixture and stir until just combined. Gently but thoroughly fold in berries and jam. Combine all the topping ingredients in a bowl and stir (using your fingers if necessary, which always is for me) until crumbly. Divide batter among 12 muffin cups lined with cupcake papers. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter in muffin tin. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees oven on the rack in the upper third of the oven until the muffins are golden and crisp and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 - 22 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 15 minutes, then remove muffins from the tin. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Baba Ganoush

This is one of our favorite ways to consume traditional eggplant. It is similar to hummus in flavor and uses. However, the baba ganoush mirrors the flavor of the eggplant, so if you have a bitter eggplant, the baba ganoush will be bitter. Try to use your eggplant quickly after getting them, preferably from the farmers' market or from a CSA to reduce the risk of bitter, old eggplants. M loves this for snacks and I feel good giving it to her thanks to the eggplant and protein in the sesame butter (tahini). We eat this with pita wedges (sometimes we get around to toasting the pita first which we think improves it). If it dries out in the refrigerator, just add a little olive oil. Piercing the eggplant with a fork prevents it from exploding (just what you always wanted in your oven--an exploded eggplant)

Baba Ganoush

1 medium eggplant
1/4 c lemon juice
1/4 c tahini (sesame butter)
1/4 - 1/2 t cumin (optional--but we always use)
1 small clove garlic
parsley sprigs (optional)

Pierce the skin of the eggplant and roast on grill or broiler until the skin is black on all sides and the eggplant is oozing. Throw the eggplant in cold water and peel. Drain the flesh and pop into food processor. Process until eggplant is fine. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Season with more lemon juice, tahini or garlic as necessary. Serve with pita.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Grilled Portabella Bulgur "Burgers"

This recipe looked wonderful when I found it on Epicurious. I love grilled portabellas and I was excited to find another use for zucchini and bell peppers.

To put it mildly, I absolutely destroyed the portabellas. I am going to blame it on being out of grilling practice. The mushrooms were charred, but very firm--not at all soft like they should have been. The filling was incredible--I ate leftovers for several meals. It was great. I'll probably try this recipe again because of how good the bulgur filling was. Next time I'll make sure I have the grill on very, very low heat (maybe even use indirect heat for a little part of the time...) and hopefully these will turn out better. Curtis also loved the filling and he could tolerate the mushrooms (which is more than I could do). J ate a little filling and M worked on part of a mushroom.

Grilled Portabella and Bulgar "Burgers"
from Gourmet

For tomato vinaigrette:
2 lg garlic clove
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 c parsley
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1 T chopped fresh rosemary

For bulgar burgers
6 - 8 large portabella mushrooms, stems removed
1 sm onion, cut lengthwise into 1/2" wedges
2 med bell peppers, quartered lengthwise
1 med zucchini, halved lengthwise
1 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 c boiling water
1 c bulgur
1/4 c pine nuts, toasted
2 1/2 oz arugula (4 c)
1 firm-ripe small avocado

To make vinaigrette, drop garlic into food processor with motor running, and finely chop. Add tomatoes, parsley, oil, vinegar, rosemary, 1/2 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper and pulse until tomatoes finely chopped, but not pureed.

To make the salad, toss the cleaned portabellas with a 1/2 c of the vinaigrette in a 13 x 9" baking dish and let stand, turning occasionally, 20 minutes. Toss onions, bell peppers, and zucchini with oil, 1/4 t salt, 1/8 t pepper. Oil grill rack, then grill vegetables, covered on a preheated gas grill to medium heat, until tender (6 - 8 minutes for peppers, 6 - 10 minutes for zucchini, 8 - 12 minutes for onion wedges, and 12 - 15 minutes for portabellas). Transfer the portabellas to a plate and the remaining vegetables to a bowl as they finish cooking. Cool slightly and then coarsely chop onions, peppers, and zucchini.

While vegetables cook, pour boiling water over bulgur with 1/2 t salt in a large bowl and let stand until water is absorbed and bulgur is tender, about 5 minutes. Drain in a sieve if any water remains. Add vegetables to bulgur with pine nuts and remaining vinaigrette and toss.

Put arugula on a platter. Top with an upside down portabella. Pack bulgur mixture into a cup measure and then unmold on top of portabella. Top with another portabella, right side up. serve with an avocado quarter.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer We-Just-Got-Our-Box and I-Am-Tired Pasta

By Wednesday afternoon, I was exhausted and didn't feel like cooking. I was a little overwhelmed with the monotony of the box and summer produce and just wanted so simple comfort food. I remembered you can't go wrong with tomatoes, basil, and black olives so I went to work making my own pasta, easy for a tired, hot day. I also think of this as my Margharita Pasta (like an Italian Margharita pizza). The family loved it and I suspect I'll make it again and again. (The exhaustion directly contributes to the lack of photos...) When I named this, I thought of the movie Waitress and the wonderful pie names. This pasta follows in that vein (but not nearly as creative as her pies).

Summer We-Just-Got-Our-Box and I-Am-Tired Pasta

8 oz cappellini
2 T olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 -3 Roma (or San Marzano) tomatoes, chopped
2 - 3 T fresh basil, chopped
2 - 3 T black olives, sliced
Parmesan cheese, grated

Cook cappellini in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Meanwhile, saute garlic in olive oil until garlic is fragrant. When pasta is al dente, toss with garlic and olive oil. Gently stir in tomatoes, basil, and black olives. Grate fresh parmesan cheese over top.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In the CSA Box today

The box wasn't as packed today as I was used to it being in the summers. I actually wished for more squash and eggplant! I can't complain about the tomatoes though. I think I may make another batch of juice--it's pretty easy to make and doesn't take as long as pasta sauce.

In the box:

5 lbs San Marzano tomatoes
hot peppers
two heirloom tomatoes
a medium-large eggplant
2 cucumbers
3 squash
a dozen eggs
a cantaloupe

Plans for the produce:

tomato juice
cantaloupe is already mostly eaten (a good way to find a sweet cantaloupe is to smell the end where it connected to the vine. It should smell sweet (a strong smell is sweeter than a not strong smell)
squash will be made into zucchini bread
eggplant will be baba ganoush

Between being exhausted (crazy infant and toddler sleep patterns!) and having things in the evenings, I haven't been doing as much cooking. From the past week and into the next week:

Monday-Grilled Portabella Bulgur "Burgers"
Tuesday- Tacos on Rice
Wednesday-Summer We-Just-Got-Our-Box and I-Am-Tired Pasta
Thursday-a casserole plus cucumbers
Friday-Baba Ganoush for snacks
Saturday-Leftovers and Za-atar Salad
Sunday-Leftovers and Jerusalem Artichoke and Dill Salad

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Oven Dried Tomato Tart

One of the many reasons Curtis is the best dad is that he loves my cooking (usually). He also knows better than to tell me if he doesn't like something right away (we define meals as "repeatable" or not vs good or bad). He also loved the meal I made I him this evening for our Father's Day dinner---slight pie theme going. We had an oven dried tomato tart and peanut butter cream pie (leftover from small group last night). Everyone ate the tart, or at least parts of the tart. Curtis and I thought it was fabulous and definitely a repeatable meal.

This isn't a hard meal to make or time intensive. It does take a while to make, but most of that time is spent doing nothing. I would plan on starting the tart 3 - 4 hours before you hope to eat. The tomatoes need to roast for 2 hours and the pastry needs to sit about 1 1/4 hours before you bake it (which takes another 30 + minutes) plus the actual 35 minutes of baking time. However during those times, you can do things like doing dishes, feeding a baby, putting away toys, blogging, etc). Hopefully next time I'll try roasting the tomatoes on a slow, low grill. I don't like how much the kitchen heats up over the 2 hours of roasting the tomatoes. It was worth it though. I am salivating just thinking about the tart again. Also, be sure you put weights in the empty pastry shell--I didn't have anything besides dried lentils which weren't heavy enough, so I had a little pit of crust difficulties (as you can see from the missing crust and weird shape). Here's the recipe:
The tomatoes after they have been roasted.
Oven Dried Tomato Tart
from Bon Appetit

5 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
6 large Roma tomatoes (or medium regular tomatoes), cored, halved crosswise and seeded
2 small garlic cloves, thinly slivered
2 T fresh thyme, minced
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3 oz pkg), thawed
1 c coarsely grated mozzarella cheese (or fresh mozzarella cheese balls)
4 oz soft fresh goat cheese
2 large eggs
1/4 c whipping cream
1/3 c black olives, pitted
2 T Parmesan cheese, grated

Line rimmed baking sheet with foil and brush with 1 T olive oil. Place tomato halves, cut sides up, on baking sheet. Sprinkle garlic and 1 T thyme over tomatoes. Drizzle remaining 1/4 c olive oil over top and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake in preheated 300 degrees oven until tomatoes begin to shrink and are slightly dried, but still soft, about 2 hours. Cool on baking sheet.

While tomatoes finish cooking, let pastry thaw (it generally takes 40 minutes). Roll out pastry on lightly floured surface to 13" square. Transfer pastry to a 9" diameter tart pan with removable bottom, pressing pastry firmly onto bottom and sides of pan. Trim overhang to 3/4". Fold overhang in and press, pushing crust 1/4" above pan. Pierce crust all over with fork. Chill 30 minutes.

When tomatoes are cooling, position rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 375. Line with pastry with foil (including the sides) and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until crust is set, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans; bake until crust edges are golden, piercing with fork if crust bubbles, about 12 minutes longer. Cool crust 10 minutes and reduce oven temp to 350. Meanwhile, using a fork or pastry blender, mash mozzarella, goat cheese, and remaining 1 T thyme together in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add eggs and cream and stir until mixture is well blended. Spread cheese filling evenly over crust. Arrange tomato halves in filling, cut side up. Place olives between tomatoes. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese evenly over top. Bake until filling is puffed and set, about 35 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Push up pan bottom, releasing sides. Serve tart warm.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Grilled Eggplant Open Faces

We got one small eggplant in our CSA box this week. I wasn't quite sure what to do with it---it wasn't enough to make into baba ganoush or to put in ratatouille. I found an eggplant sandwich recipe and thought it looked perfect.

Curtis and I loved it. I didn't bother offering to the kids--mostly because I didn't want to share it. Madeleine probably would have liked it. Once the eggplant was eaten, I just toasted a piece of bread with Gouda on it and topped it with the leftover tomatoes, which was also excellent. We'll be eating a lot of this this summer!

The recipe says to discard the long sides of the eggplant with the skin. We grilled the end slices and then took it off the skin to eat. No eggplant wasted that way.

Grilled Eggplant Open Faced Sandwich
from Gourmet

1 lb tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 c + 2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T white wine vinegar
1/2 t black pepper
3/4 t salt
4 slices of smoked Gouda (or smoked mozzarella)
4 slices of bread (I used whole wheat bread)
1 eggplant

Prepare grill for cooking over direct heat with medium-hot charcoal (or moderate heat for a gas grill). While grill is heating, stir together tomatoes, parsley, 2 T oil, vinegar, pepper and salt in medium bowl. Brush bread on both sides with 1 T oil per slice. Trim the top and bottom off each eggplant. Cut into 1/4 - 1/2" slices lengthwise. Brush cut sides with 3 T oil (total) and sprinkle with 1/2 t salt. On lightly oiled grill rack, grill eggplant slices until very tender. While the eggplant is grilling, grill bread until grill marks form When eggplant is finished top with a slice of cheese and grill until cheese begins to melt. Transfer to platter.

To serve, top each piece of bread with an eggplant/cheese slice. Spoon tomato mixture on top of eggplant.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer Pasta with Sausage and Beans

I had a hankering for sausage the other night, but wanted something not too heavy. I also had hopes of using some of my 20 pounds of tomatoes. I found a recipe on epicurious I thought I could adapt to fit the bill.

We all enjoyed it. There were a couple of things I'll tweak for next time. For example, the original recipe called for a roasted head of garlic---I won't do that next time. It heats the kitchen up too much and I didn't really taste the roasted garlic flavor (so I'm also leaving that step out of the recipe I am including). Here's my version.

Summer Pasta with Sausage and Beans
adapted from Gourmet

2 T oil oil
1/2 pound sausage, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 c onions, thinly sliced
2 c fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 (15-oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 c water
1/2 lb chunky pasta (I used farfalle)
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 c fresh basil, chopped
1/4 c Parmesan, grated

Heat oil in a large skillet over moderate heat until hot, but not smoking, then cook sausage until browned. Add garlic and onions and cook, stirring occasionally until onion is tender and lightly browned. Stir in beans and water. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until reduced in half, about 15 - 2o minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente. Toss pasta with sausage mixture, tomatoes, parsley, and basil. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

In the CSA Box today

5 lbs of tomatoes plus the extra 15 lbs I ordered
2 bunches mint
1 bunch parsley
a bag of potatoes
1 bag of onions
4 small zucchini/squash
7 cucumbers
green beans
bag of sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)
3 large and 2 small bell peppers
4 hot peppers
a dozen eggs

I am not sure of a menu yet--we have lots of stuff out of the house this week so it will be interesting.

Regarding Jerusalem Artichokes--store wrapped in paper towels in a plastic bag in the refrigerator (the paper towels help prevent excess humidity. Now to figure out how to cook them...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blueberry Hill Cupcakes

I've been in a blueberry mood (thanks to buying 3 flats of berries this summer). When M's birthday approached I decided to try a blueberry cake. I knew she'd be fine with it, she only eats the icing anyway. I used the cake as a base for a cake we decorated. As a cake this seems like a cake. In cupcake form, Curtis says they are more like muffins (which brings to wonder, what is the difference between muffins and cupcakes? I'd say whole wheat flour and lots of added in chunky ingredients. I don't think there is enough extra ingredients or whole wheat flour to make these muffins...) The original recipe, which you can find on Epicurious, has a maple sugar frosting. I used a basic white fluffy icing so I could color and decorate with the icing. You can also make this as a 9 x 13" cake, just bake longer.

The recipe...

Blueberry Hill Cupcakes
from Bon Appetit

3 1/4 c flour (all purpose)
1 1/4 c sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 t coarse salt
1/4 t baking soda
6 T unsalted butter, melted
1/4 c canola oil
2 large eggs
1 c buttermilk
1 c whole milk
1 t vanilla extract
1 t grated lemon peel
1 1/4 c fresh blueberries, frozen 4 hours (to help them from sinking to the bottom of the cupcakes)

Sift flour and next 4 ingredients into a large bowl. Whisk melted butter and oil in a medium bowl. Add eggs; whisk to blend. Whisk in buttermilk, milk, vanilla extract, and lemon peel. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients; whisk just to blend. Stir in frozen blueberries. Divide batter evenly among two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners. Bake in preheated 350 degrees oven for about 23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. (if baking on two racks in the oven, rotate half way through baking to ensure even baking). Transfer cupcakes to racks and cool completely before icing.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Spanish Frittata

This is a great way to use some bell peppers, potatoes, and eggs that accumulate. Curtis and I enjoyed it. The kids didn't eat it, mostly because they ate too much of the bread they were supposed to be feeding the ducks earlier in the afternoon. I've been enjoying the leftovers for breakfasts this week.

Spanish Frittata

from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics
2 -3 c sliced potatoes (1/4 inch thick)
3 T olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T paprika
2 c onions, thinly sliced
2 c bell peppers, sliced
1/8 - 1/4 t cayenne (optional)
6 eggs
3 oz Neufchatel or cream cheese
1 T flour
1 1/4 c milk
1/2 t salt
1/2 c Spanish (green) olives, chopped
1 c grated Cheddar cheese

In a bowl, toss the potatoes with 2 T oil, 1/2 of garlic, all the paprika and a dash of slat. Spread evenly onto a baking sheet and roast in a preheated 400 for 20 minutes, or until tender and golden brown. In the same bowl, toss the onions and peppers with the cayenne and remaining oil and garlic. Spread evenly on a second baking sheet and roast about 15 minutes, until tender and brown.

Meanwhile, combine eggs, cream cheese, flour, milk and salt in a blender or food processor and puree to a smooth custard. After the vegetables are roasted, reduce the oven to 350. Layer the roasted potatoes in a greased 7 x 11" or 9" square baking pan. Spread the onions on top, sprinkle with olives and grated, and pour the custard all over. Bake for 45 minutes, until custard is set and top is golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce

We ended up with a lot of leftover cherry tomatoes (thanks to buying at Costco) after Madeleine's birthday party. I wasn't sure what to do with them until I found this recipe. I halved the recipe because I didn't have 2 1/2 lbs of cherry tomatoes. This would be a great recipe if you had several cherry tomato plants that have gone wild or if you too, bought too many cherry tomatoes at Costco. We all enjoyed it. You really can't go wrong with a light pasta meal of cherry tomatoes and black olives (plus some balsamic vinegar). I wish I had more cherry tomatoes...

Original calls for 3 oz (or a fat 1/2 c) of feta cheese. If using feta, stir in after adding the tomatoes, until it is melted and creamy, about 2 minutes

Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce
adapted from Bon Appetit

1 1/4 lbs cherry tomatoes, halved
3 T olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 T balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 T fresh oregano, chopped
8 oz farfelle or other chunky pasta
1/4 c pitted Kalamata olives, halved
2 T drained capers (optional)
Parmesan, grated
2 T pine nuts, toasted

Combine tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and vinegar in a 13 x 9" glass baking dish. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 375 degrees oven for about 45 minutes, or until tender and juicy, stirring occasionally. Stir in oregano (can be made 2 hours ahead---let stand at room temperature).

Cook pasta until al dente in a large pot of salted boiling water. Drain and return to pot. Add tomatoes, olives, and capers. Stir over medium heat until heated through, about 2 minutes. Grate Parmesan cheese over top and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pasta Sauce (for Canning)

I cook this a long time for a nice thick sauce. If you like a thinner sauce, don't simmer as long. I've also made 1/2 and 1/4 batches of this recipe (because 24 c of tomatoes is a lot!!).

Pasta Sauce (for Canning)
from Simply in Season

12 lbs (24 c) tomatoes, peeled and quartered
2 medium onions, halved
2 - 4 chili peppers (optional--I've never used)
1/4 c fresh basil
2 T fresh oregano
1 T fresh marjoram
2 t fresh thyme
2 t fennel seeds
6 cloves garlic
1/3 c sugar
3 T salt
30 oz tomato paste
1/3 c olive oil

To easily peel the tomatoes, cut an "X" on the bottom of each tomato and submerge in a pot of boiling water briefly (until the skin starts to curl away from the X).

Puree tomatoes in a food processor or blender. Put in a very large soup pot (or 2 pots if you don't have one that is big enough). Puree onions, garlic, chilies, basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, and fennel seeds. Add to tomatoes and stir. Add remaining ingredients to puree. Cook for 2 hours or more until very thick, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Ladle into hot sterilized pint jars to within 1/2 of top, seal with sterilized lids, and process full jars in boiling water bath for 35 minutes. Remove from water and put on rack for 24 hours. Remove rings and check for seal. Store until you are ready to use.

Canning 101

I picked up my 15 pounds of tomatoes Wednesday and started processing them last evening. The top of my agenda was pasta sauce. We use this all fall/winter as a pasta sauce and pizza sauce. The most devastating thing about not having success (yet--I still have hope!) with my tomatoes this year was the prospect of an entire year without my homemade sauce.

Canning is a little scary for me. The whole idea of botulism rather freaks me out, but I try to have faith in the canning process that my sauce will be safe. The biggest keys in canning is to make sure you boil (process) the filled jars long and you don't keep any jars that don't seal. The acidity of the food being canned is key, so follow the recipe you use carefully. Changing a recipe significantly could change the acidity of the food and increase chances of botulism.
Have jars touch the pot to prevent them from breaking
I also worry about the glass jars breaking. I fill the jars with boiling hot sauce and I hate hearing the ping as the glass breaks from hot in cold. The answer to that is to line the jars up around the pot of boiling water, the edges touching the pot so the glass heats up as well.

The only equipment you need to can--a large pot, rings, lids, and glass jars
You don't need lots of fancy equipment to can. All you really need is a large pot, tall enough that the jars can be submerged, glass jars, lids and rings. At the grocery store, you can buy a tray of glass jars with lids and rings already on it. The rings and jars are also reusable from year to year. The lids are not. There are a couple other things that are helpful, but not necessary--a large grabber thing to put the jars in the boiling water and to pull them out. A little metal jar holder to put at the bottom of the pot is also helpful, but again not necessary. The jar holder keeps the jars from clanking around on each other and the pot and breaking. If you don't have that, fold a kitchen hand towel up to fit in the bottom of the pot and put the jars on that. (That's what I did the first 2 years I canned). Also helpful (but not necessary) is a large funnel that fits in the mouth of the jars to prevent losing sauce down the outside of the jars. A plastic one is best since it won't conduct heat and become too hot to touch.
Helpful, but not necessary equipment--a rack for the bottom of the pot, a plastic funnel, and a gripper for the hot jars

Before putting the metal lids on the jars, place them in very hot water for few minutes. This softens the rubber compound on the lids and helps them to seal tightly.

When you process the jars (full of whatever goodie you want to preserve), boil the water uncovered. Because some water will be lost to evaporation, keep a teapot of boiling water handy so you can add boiling water as the water level gets lower. Use boiling water so it doesn't reduce the temperature of the water you are processing cans in significantly.
Processing tomato juice--I need to add more boiling water because of losing some water to evaporation.

Using a pressure cooker speeds up the process considerably. I however don't have a pressure cooker so I can't really attest to how that process works or is different.

If you want to can your own foods, I would recommend to talking to someone else who has canned (in addition to me). There is also a good website on preserving food. Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Canning is also becoming a little more popular again. There is a new book out on preserving food and in the Austin area, a class is being taught on canning by the Sustainable Food Center this Sunday.

Watch for my pasta sauce recipe and tomato juice recipe (it's great for Gazpacho!) here in the next few days.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Zucchini Patties with Feta

My family does not love summer squash (zucchini included). In fact, Curtis and I rather dread the start of the very long squash season. When Curtis saw what was for supper last night, his response was to groan and ask "Zucchini?" However, by the time the meal was over, Curtis had changed his mind. In Curtis's words, "we have gotten past the painful zucchini stage and found some recipes we like." This one he deemed repeatable.

We turned supper into a finger food type supper. With the exception of the zucchini patties (which we topped with sour cream and/or salsa), nothing else was eaten with a utensils. We had tomato slices, cucumber slices, thick, hearty wheat bread, and black olives. M didn't like the patties--I didn't expect her to since they had feta/goat cheese in them. However, the rest of us rather enjoyed them.

The original recipe suggested making this as an appetizer. It said it would make 18 patties. I made it as a main course and made 7 (you can make more or less depending on how big you want a serving). I also didn't have the parsley so I omitted it. My patties were much wetter so I added about 3/4 - 1 c of flour. They still seemed to moist. Instead of adding even more flour (I was scared they may taste doughy), I added about 1/4 - 1/2 c of bread crumbs. That did the trick.

Zucchini Patties with Feta
from Bon Appetit

2 1/2 c coarsely grated zucchini or yellow squash
1 t salt, divided
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 c (to as much as 1 c) of flour
1/2 c crumbled feta or goat cheese or a mixture of both
1 c fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 c onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 T fresh dill, chopped (don't leave this out!)

1/2 c olive oil
1/2 c canola oil

Toss zucchini (squash) and 1/2 t salt in large bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer to sieve and press out excess liquid. Place zucchini in a dry bowl and mix in egg, yolk, 1/2 c flour, cheese, and 1/2 t salt. Mix in parsley, onions, and dill. Add extra flour (and even bread crumbs) if batter is very wet, a little at a time. Batter should be moist and will stick to your fingers, but it should be dry enough to be able to hold together as a patty long enough to put it in the pan.

Heat 2 T of olive oil and 2 T of canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Form patties with your hands and drop into skillet. Fry patties until golden, 5 minutes per side, adding more oils as needed. Transfer to paper towels and drain excess oil. Serve hot or at room temperature topped with sour cream, yogurt, and/or salsa.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In the CSA Box today

5 smallish cucumbers
4 small squash--yellow and zucchini
7 hot peppers
3 bell peppers
2 heirloom tomatoes
a bag of onions
a bag of tomatoes
a dozen eggs
5 potatoes

What am I going to do with all those peppers?

Wednesday: Sicilian Eggplant Pasta
Thursday: Zucchini cakes with Feta
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Spanish Frittata
Sunday: Fajitas with homemade salsa cruda
Monday: Chicken and chard enchiladas
Tuesday: ??

Blueberry Crumb Bars

Really? Need I say more than this picture? My favorite blueberry treat (other than just plain, fresh blueberries) are these bars. They're a hit with the family too. :) Curtis thinks they're pretty good for breakfast or a mid-morning snack.

Blueberry Crumb Bars

1 c white sugar
1 t baking powder
2 c flour
1 c rolled oats
1 c butter
1 egg
1/4 t salt (optional)
1/2 t cinnamon
4 c fresh blueberries
1/2 c white sugar
3 t cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 c sugar, flour, oats, baking powder, and cinnamon. Mix in salt, if desired. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into prepared pan.

In a separate bowl, gently mix together blueberries, 1/2 c sugar, and cornstarch. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the berry layer.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Organic Tomatoes for Sale

For those of you in Austin (and in particular, those who are members of Johnson's Backyard Garden CSA), Johnson's Backyard Garden is having an online tomato sale--15 lbs of organic tomatoes for $20 ($25 for non members). I've ordered 30 lbs. Am I nuts you may be asking yourself?

Last year I canned 24 pints of pasta/pizza sauce and 10 pints of tomato juice. Of that, I have one jar of pasta sauce left. 15 pounds will make about 12 pints (more or less depending on thickness of sauce) of pasta sauce. Watch for recipes for canned pasta sauce and tomato juice. I am going to be up to my elbows in pasta sauce (and can't wait!). Cost wise--you can't beat this. Next time you are at the grocery price a pound of organic tomatoes or a jar of organic pasta sauce...my homemade pasta sauce costs a little over $2.50 for a quart. You won't find any organic sauce that cheap in a grocery store!

Check out their website for more info: www.johnsonsbackyardgarden.com/


Mmm...gazpacho. Gazpacho has to be my absolute favorite way to use cucumber (I don't like cucumbers...). Only Curtis and I like it, which is fine. I usually eat it for lunches for a week while the kids eat their PB & J sandwiches (and cucumbers and cherries, as M did today). It's light and refreshing for these hot Texas days.

A few recipe notes--you can make this as thin or thick as you like. I puree half the cucumber, bell pepper and parsley. If you want a chunkier soup, don't puree. If you want a thin soup, puree the whole thing. This time I also added one of the thin yellow peppers I've been getting from our CSA--it added a little extra flavor. This is a recipe to experiment with. Make it several times until you come up with exactly what you are looking for. Regarding the color of the soup (in the picture)--I used canned tomato juice which I made out of a combination of red and yellow tomatoes last year so the juice wasn't as bright red as sometimes. Puree the vegetables also makes the soup less red--for a redder soup, don't puree anything. I would also suggest adding the honey last. My gazpacho was a little sweet this time because of how naturally sweet the tomato juice. Only add the honey if it needs a little extra sweetness.

adapted from a recipe from one of the Moosewood Cookbooks

4 c tomato juice
1/2 c onion, finely minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium bell pepper, minced
1 t honey (opt)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and minced
2 scallions, minced
1/2 - 1 lemon, juiced (to taste)
1 lime, juiced
1 t tarragon
1 t dried basil (1 T fresh)
1/2 t cumin
1/4 c fresh parsley, minced
2 T olive oil
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste
2 c fresh tomatoes, diced

Combine tomato juice, onion, garlic, 1/2 of bell pepper, honey, lemon juice, lime juice, tarragon, basil, olive oil, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Puree in blender or food processor. Add 1/2 of cucumber, 1/2 of scallions, and 1/2 of parsley to pureed mixture. Puree (for a chunky soup, just add all of remaining ingredients and serve---skip the second puree). Add all the remaining ingredients. Chill and serve cold.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Blueberry Pudding Cake

I splurged and bought a flat of blueberries at the Farmer's Market. They taste absolutely wonderful. I froze 3 2-cup bags for later use (freezing blueberries are quite easy. Wash them and then dry them gently on dish towels. Put in a bag and throw in the freezer). The rest we are eating plain or using in recipes. I choose a recipe I wanted to use and Curtis gave specific directions for what type of recipe he wanted. This was his recipe. It is a wonderful recipe---cake like on top, gooey blueberries on the bottom. J loved it (evidence is the messy blueberry face and hands). M didn't, which we didn't mind. We will definitely make this again!!

Blueberry Pudding Cake
straight from Gourmet, July 2005

1/3 c plus 1/2 c sugar
1/4 c water
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 t cornstarch
2 c blueberries (approx. 10 oz)
1 c flour
1 3/4 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 large egg
1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 t vanilla

Stir together 1/3 c sugar with water, lemon juice, and cornstarch in a small saucepan, then stir in blueberries. Bring to a simmer, then simmer, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 1/2 c sugar in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, milk, butter, and vanilla in a large. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, whisking until just combined. Spoon batter into a buttered 9-inch square baking pan, spreading evening. Pour blueberry mixture evenly over batter (before picture at top--berries will sink--as noted in the after picture). Bake in a preheated 375 degrees oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of cake portion comes out clean. Cool on rack and serve warm, topped with ice cream. Store leftovers at covered at room temperature (if there is some left after that, store in the refrigerator).

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fish a la Grecque

M is a huge fish fan, so I had no doubt that she would love this. I was not wrong. She had two servings. Curtis thought it was good as well (just good because I overcooked the fish). We served this with rice and green beans. It's a nice, easy, light summer fish dish.

Fish a la Grecque
adapted from one of the Moosewood Cookbooks

2 lb white fish fillets
1 medium red onion, sliced
1 T fresh dill (1 t dried)
black pepper, to taste
1 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 c feta cheese, crumbled

Place the fish in an oiled casserole dish. Top the fillets with the onion rounds and sprinkle them with dill, pepper, parsley, tomato, and feta. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 20 - 30 minutes, until the fish flakes with a fork. (check early to prevent overcooking)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ratatouille over Pasta

Last year, I made ratatouille by grilling the vegetables. This year, our gas grill still isn't hooked up and I am charcoal grill challenged, so I adapted my recipe to be made in the oven. The result was great. Curtis said this was his favorite meal I had made all year. The seasonings in the ratatouille are scant--just basil, olive oil, and salt. The vegetables are what really provide all the flavor. That said, use the freshest eggplant and tomatoes possible. We topped it with goat cheese which really complemented the flavor. In the past, I've also used feta in place of the goat cheese. I like the goat cheese much better though. I predict we will be eating lots of ratatouille this summer!

Ratatouille over Pasta
1/2 lb eggplant, cut in 1/2" cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 zucchini, halved and sliced
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c + 2T olive oil
coarse sea salt
2 tomatoes, pureed
2 T basil, chopped
8 oz chunky pasta
goat cheese, crumbled

Stir together eggplant and onions in a roasting pan. Toss with 1/4 c olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Roast in preheated 450 degrees oven for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in zucchini and bell pepper with the eggplants and onions. Toss with remaining 2 T olive oil and a dash of sea salt. Roast for an additional 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the vegetables roast, bring pureed tomatoes and basil to a boil in a saucepan. Simmer until the sauce is thickened and the pasta and vegetables are ready. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta. Drain. Put the vegetables in the tomato sauce and combine. Place pasta in a serving bowl and pour tomato/vegetable sauce on top of the pasta. Sprinkle with goat cheese and serve.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Grilled Chicken with Bruschetta

I took a shortcut with the chicken marinade and used pre-marinaded chicken (lemon herb marinaded chicken from Central Market). This was an easy meal and everyone liked at least one part of it. The chicken and bruschetta we served over polenta. I have also made this and cut the chicken into strips and mixed it into pasta (and topped with the bruschetta).

Grilled Chicken with Bruschetta
from Cooking Light Magazine

1 T fresh oregano, chopped
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T olive oil
1 T Dijon mustard
1 t fresh rosemary, chopped
1 t fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 t salt
4 chicken breasts (or two whole chicken breasts)

2 1/2 c tomatoes, chopped
1/2 c basil, chopped
1 T thawed orange juice concentrate
1/2 t salt
1/2 t fresh garlic, minced
1/4 t black pepper

Combine all the ingredients except the chicken in a large Ziploc bag. Add chicken to the bag and seal. Marinate chicken in the refrigerator for an hour, turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, combine bruschetta ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Remove chicken from the bag and discard marinade. Grill chicken for 6 minutes on each side or until chicken is done. Serve with bruschetta, over pasta, polenta or by itself.

In the CSA Box today

Yay for lots of tomatoes! I must admit, many, many squash were left behind. Hopefully someone else can use all my yellow and patty pan squash. I am accepting the reality that I cannot use all the squash I get and I hope someone else can. I felt slightly guilty unloading all the squash, but my junk may be someone else's treasure right?

I ended up with:
3 zucchini
a bunch of red tomatoes and one yellow tomato
an eggplant
a cabbage
2 ears of corn
a bag of green beans
4 mild hot peppers
2 purple and 1 green bell pepper (when cooked, the purple ones turn green as well)
a bag of onions
a bunch of swiss chard
a dozen eggs

I was hoping for some basil, but alas, there was none. The corn is pretty exciting though.
Possible Menu:
Tonight: Grilled Chicken with bruschetta over polenta and a side of grilled corn (I know, I am overdoing the corn a little, but there's not that much corn on the cob)
Thursday: Ratatouille (I can't spell that...)
Friday: Hopefully pizza
Saturday: Fish a la Grecque plus a batch of Gazpacho to eat all week long
Sunday: Chard Cheese Bake

That's all the farther I can think ahead. :)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Zucchini Quiche

I think I have found another zucchini recipe that is worth repeating. I loved this quiche. It has bacon in it, and really, where can you go wrong with bacon? Bacon makes almost all vegetables more palatable and it doesn't take much to season a whole dish (only two strips of hearty farmer's market bacon in this dish--for six servings, that's 1/3 a strip a bacon each, not bad...). Curtis and I liked this. M ate the crust, not surprised because she hasn't been a big quiche fan lately. J ate some of his, before deciding he just wanted crusts too. We served it with some small tomatoes cut into wedges that we had gotten in our box. I will definitely make this again!

A note on the filling--it acted differently than what I expected. Trust the baking times and if a toothpick comes out basically clean, call it done. It didn't get as firm as some of the other quiches I've made, but I really enjoyed the consistency.

Zucchini Quiche
adapted from Gourmet

1 (9-inch) pre-made pie crust
1/4 lb sliced bacon (use a lot less if you are using good Farmer's Market bacon)
2 medium zucchini (3/4 lb total), halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/8" thick slices
3/4 c heavy cream
3/4 c milk
1/4 t black pepper
3 large eggs
1 c grated Swiss cheese (or Gruyere)

Prick pie crust all over and bake in preheated 450 degrees oven for 10 minutes. Let cool on a rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350.

While crust bakes, cook bacon in heavy 12" skillet (I used my cast iron black skillet) over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Remove all but 1 T bacon fat from skillet. Add zucchini and saute in 1 T bacon fat over medium high heat, stirring frequently until zucchini is tender and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Heat cream, milk, and pepper in a small saucepan until mixture just begins to simmer, then remove from heat. Whisk together eggs in a large heatproof bowl, then gradually whisk in hot cream mixture until combined. Stir in bacon, zucchini, and cheese and pour into pie crust. Bake in preheated 350 degrees oven until filling is just set,, 25 - 30 minutes. Let cool (in the pan) on a rack about 20 minutes. Serve.