Well, hello there! Great news…SFTF is featured on Design*Sponge today! Welcome, all D*S readers! If you’re an SFTF reader (not to drive home any ideas of “camps” here among you all) who has yet to stumble upon D*S, it is a site full of amazing inspirational posts from some of the most creative minds in the world. The topics and projects featured there never cease to amaze me! And I’m addicted, checking in on the D*S divas at least twice a day.
My recipe on D*S for Perfect Pumpkin Risotto is one that I conjured up many months ago, and I’ve been biting my nails ever since, anxious to share this heavenly and comforting winter dish with you. Unfortunately, the season for buying local pumpkins is likely passed in most parts at this point. But perhaps you’ve been holding on to one or two in your cellar, hoping to carry memories of glowing autumn days just a little deeper into the pale dimness of winter. Or, as you all are probably well-aware of by now (am I driving this point home too much?), pumpkin puree is a miracle ingredient and if you’ve got a stash, this risotto is well worth a cup or two. To replicate the “chunks” without any fresh pumpkin on hand here in the depths of winter, you could cube and roast sweet potatoes instead.
Perfect Pumpkin Risotto
A Straight from the Farm Original
- 1 large or 2 small eating pumpkins
- 2 t. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 t. coarse sea salt
- 1/4 t. cinnamon
- 1/4 t. finely minced fresh rosemary
- pinch of white pepper
- 1 firm ripe pear
- 3 C. vegetable stock
- 3 T. butter
- 1/2 C. diced onion
- 1 1/2 C. aborrio rice
- 1/2 C. white wine or sherry cooking wine
- 1/2 t. finely minced fresh rosemary
- 1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 1/2 C. pumpkin puree (above)
- 1 C. roasted pumpkin cubes (above)
- 1/2 C. freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 C. heavy cream
- freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
- sprigs of rosemary to garnish
* The pumpkin portion of this recipe can be prepared in advance and stored in sealed containers in the fridge for 2-3 days before making the risotto or frozen for several months. Just thaw completely before making the risotto.
Begin with making the pumpkin puree and roasted cubes. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cut the pumpkin(s) in half with a very sharp knife (be careful!) and scoop out the seeds with a large spoon. Place one half of the pumpkin cut side down in a baking dish and put about a half inch of water in the bottom. Place in oven and bake until a fork slides through the skin easily and the flesh is very soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and use tongs to place the pumpkin cut side up on a cool surface to let off some of the heat. When pumpkin can be handle (use a dish towel if you’re in a hurry), scoop out the soft flesh with a spoon and place in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Set aside. You can freeze any extras in a freezer bag for use later.
While the first pumpkin half is baking, prepare the second half of the pumpkin by using a good vegetable peeler to remove the skin and cutting the uncooked flesh into small cubes. Line a baking sheet with foil and place pumpkin cubes on it. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat evenly. Add the nutmeg, salt, cinnamon, rosemary, and white pepper. Wash the pear but do not peel it. Halve, core and dice the pear into smaller pieces than the pumpkin. Add the pear to the pumpkin on the sheet and toss everything with your hands to combine all the ingredients. Place in the oven and bake until tender and golden at the edges, about 25 minutes.
Once the pumpkin is well on its way to being done, begin to work on the risotto. Put the vegetable stock in a medium saucepan over low heat to come to a simmer.
Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. When it is melted, add the onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir for about two minutes so it can absorb the butter and toast a bit. Add the wine and let everything simmer for another minute or two until the wine is absorbed.
Set a timer for 18 minutes. Add about half a cup of hot stock to the risotto and stir constantly until it is absorbed. Add another half cup of stock and repeat this process until 18 minutes is up. Add the pumpkin puree, nutmeg, rosemary and a final half cup of stock and stir vigorously to combine. When risotto has once again become thick and creamy, add the roasted pumpkin cubes and grated cheese and stir again to combine. Finally, finish the risotto by stirring in the heavy cream and adding pepper and salt to taste.
Serve immediately while hot, garnishing with addition grated cheese and a sprig of rosemary on each plate.
I hinted in the last post that I’d been doing a lot of canning recently. I grew up with canning, helping my mom put up all sorts of fruits and vegetables for our family’s winter eating. Sadly, I didn’t always appreciate the font of knowledge that was before me at the time. Nor did I really embrace canning again until last year. This autumn I’ve been a woman on a mission, intent on returning to the traditions of putting up plenty of jars to “keep on keepin’ on” with the local eating long after the garden is in its wintery bed.
The recipe I’m giving you today isn’t exactly the one my mom uses because I like to add a few bits of warm spices to mine, but the concept is very much the same. I used pears from the same tree in the side yard of our family farm that my grandmother used when she was my age. I also happen to use the same canning kettle and jar rack as my grandmother. She gave them to me at Christmas last year. I was extremely sad when she did, because it meant that she herself would never use them again (she’s 90 and unable to see well enough to can anymore) . Once I got started using the kettle though, I felt incredibly grateful to her and to my mom for passing down both the tools and know-how to preserve my own food. As I lifted the heavy jars full of ripe pears into the kettle to be processed, I couldn’t help but feel deeply connected to my family and its heritage as my hands were holding the same handles as my grandmother’s had so many times over so many years.
What follows is a guide to canning pears with the recipe at the end.
- Get ripe but still firm local pears. Do not use mushy fruit.
- Set yourself up with two chairs, a large dish pan, a large bowl and a sharp knife. You sit on the side of the dish pan.
- Put the whole pears into the dish pan, leaving a corner empty.
- Peel and core pears, putting scraps in the empty corner of the dish pan and the clean pear halves into the big bowl.
- Set up your stove to work efficiently: one burner for simmering lids, one burner for the canning kettle, one burner for making your syrup, and one burner for keeping some extra water simmering in case you need to add it any of the other three. Keep ladle and jar lifter close at hand.
- Pack sterilized jars with pear halves using a fork and keeping the round side up.
- Put one jar at a time in a bowl to catch spills and use a ladle to fill with hot syrup.
- Thoroughly clean rims of filled jars with a damp paper towel.
- Use magnet or tongs to carefully lift hot lids out of simmering water and place immediately on jars.
- Fill rack with seven filled and capped jars.
- Temper jars by placing them half way into the hot kettle for 10 seconds and then lift them back out. Repeat. Finally carefully submerge completely and put lid on the kettle.
Spiced Canned Pears
A Straight from the Farm Original
- 1 bushel of firm, but ripe pears
- 2 C. sugar
- 6 C. water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1/4 t. ground cinnamon
- 1 t. freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 whole star anise
- 14-16 quart jars
- lids and rings
- canning kettle
- jar lifter
- large ladle
Begin by filling the canning kettle with water and placing 7 jars at a time in it, also filled with water. Place kettle on high heat to come to a boil while you prepare the pears.
Place lids in a shallow skillet and cover with water. Set over low heat to simmer until ready to use. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, and anise, stirring well to get the sugar to start dissolving. Leave the saucepan sit on the counter while you peel half the pears. When you’re about half way done with peeling, put the saucepan on high heat to come to a boil. If it starts boiling before you are done peeling, just lower the heat so it is simmering.
Set up a peeling station with two large dish pans or bowls. Fill one with whole pears, leaving a small space at one side empty. Use a sharp paring knife to peel and core the pears, putting the peelings into the empty spot you left in the bowl/pan with the whole pears and placing the cleaned pear halves in the other bowl/pan. Work as quickly as you can and peel only as many pears as you’ll need to fill the 7 jars so that the prepared pears don’t sit around too long and discolor.
Use the jar lifter to carefully lift the jars out of the boiling kettle. Leave the kettle on the stove to continue boiling with the lid on. Very carefully dump the hot water out of the jars and set them on a folded dish towel on the counter. Use a fork to spear each pear half with its rounded side facing up (the cavity facing down). Lower pear halves into each jar, packing them tightly and leaving at least a half inch of head space at the top of the jar.
Take the hot syrup off the heat. Place a jar of pears in a bowl to catch any spills and use the ladle to pour syrup into the jar, covering the pears. Repeat until all the jars have syrup. If you should find yourself running low on syrup, you can add about a half cup of hot water to the saucepan to make it stretch.
Use a damp paper towel to carefully wipe the rim of each jar clean, running your finger over it after cleaning to be sure there are no residues or chips in the glass that will interfere with the seal. Using tongs or a magnetic wand, fish out one lid from the simmering skillet at a time and put on a jar and secure with a ring twisted on tightly. Repeat on all jars.
When all jars are ready, place in jar rack/lifter and carefully lower half way into the boiling kettle and then pull them back out. This helps make sure the jars won’t crack at the sudden exposure to high heat. Repeat lowering-lifting again before placing the jars entirely in the kettle. Make sure the water covers the jars by at least an inch. If it doesn’t, top off the kettle with more boiling water from a tea kettle or the water the lids had been simmering in. Keep the kettle over high heat and process the jars for 20 minutes.
Using the jar rack/lifter, carefully remove the jars from the kettle. Set on the folded dish towel, dabbing off any water that lingers on the lids. Place another towel over the jars and allow them to sit for at least 4-5 hours without being disturbed, ideally overnight. The lids should start popping (sealing) in an hour or two after coming out of the kettle, but don’t fret if a few haven’t as some take much longer to get a good seal. Test the seal when the jars are completely cool. If the lid is firm, it’s sealed. If it has a spring in it still, it hasn’t sealed and you’ll need to store that jar in the fridge.
Use a permanent marker to label the jars and store in a cool dark place until ready to use. Properly sealed and processed jars can last over a year though it’s best to try to eat them before the next pear season comes around.
(makes about approximately 14 quarts or 28 pints)
This week finally felt like winter around here. Don’t get me wrong. It’s certainly been frigid for several weeks now, but the skies were gray and the ground dull brown. The epitome of winter, at least in my mind, is brilliant blue skies with blinding sunlight streaming down that makes a generous blanket of snow glisten as it crunches under your feet. That’s what this week has been in southeastern Pennsylvania. And the sunsets…ah, the winter sunsets are the most beautiful with hues of violet, crimson and orange that cut through the leafless trees. There’s another stunning one developing right this very minute as I type. I love that my window looks west!
I won’t bore you with a tired line like “winter’s the perfect season to snuggle up with a bowl of soup”. You know that already. What you might not think about though is making soup out of whatever is lying around your kitchen, rather than trooping off to the store to buy ingredients, or – gasp! – a can. Before we get to discussing today’s recipe for Roasted Root Vegetable Stew, I’m going to take the liberty to reprint here the soup “blueprint” I posted last January.
The Soup Blueprint
- Heat your fat (oil or butter or lard) in a large soup pot
- Sauté any combination of garlic and onions (add more of whichever you like)
- Add pinches of salt and pepper with each addition of ingredients in order to build your flavor
- Add any combination of vegetables and continue sautéing
- Add your dried herbs and spices and continue sautéing
- Add your stock, at least enough to let the vegetables swim freely
- Bring to a boil
- If you want any pastas or grains, add them now (be very generous with your stock if using these)
- Reduce to a simmer and cook until everything’s soft and happy – usually about 30 minutes
- Add fresh herbs during the last ten minutes of cooking
- Blend if you want a smooth soup and/or add cream if you want
- Taste and season with more salt and pepper
- Taste again!
- If you wanted meat in there somewhere, depending on if it’s cooked or raw, add it in either step two (to brown beef), eight (to cook chicken), or ten (for cooked anything)
So there I was, in the mood for a thick hearty soup, staring into my pantry and brainstorming. The only substantial local ingredients in there right now are a diverse assortment of root vegetables: parsnips, rutabagas, celeriac root, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, onions and carrots. How I love roasted vegetables, particularly any of the root variety! It wasn’t a big mental leap then to think of roasting the roots first before putting them in some broth for a stew. Added a few chick peas from the cupboard and pinches of herbs, and I had just what I was craving. Perhaps it’s precisely what you’re craving too?
Huh, would you look at that? I just realized this picture has the exact same colors as that sunset outside my window! How perfect!
Roasted Root Vegetable Stew
A Straight from the Farm Original
- 1 large rutabaga
- 2 medium russet potatoes
- 1 large or several small parsnips
- 1 large carrot
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 small celeriac root
- 1 medium onion
- 1 can (14 oz) of chic peas, drained
- 1 T. olive oil
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 t. dried marjoram or thyme
- 1 t. freshly finely chopped rosemary (optional)
- 3-4 C. vegetable broth
*Note: Since vegetable sizes are somewhat arbitrary, just be sure to have roughly one cup’s worth of each of the above vegetables.
Scrub and trim ends and any bad spots off of all the root vegetables. I did not peel mine, but you may wish to peel some or all of the root vegetables. The celeriac in particular could benefit from a quick “haircut” to get rid of some of the rougher outer edges.
Preheat your oven to 450 F. To prep the vegetables for roasting, cut everything, including the onion, into 1 inch cubes. Place on a foil-lined cookie sheet or in a roasting pan. Add the chic peas to the chopped vegetables. Drizzle with oil and toss with your hands so everything is evenly coated. Rinse your hands and season the vegetables with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and the teaspoon of herb. Toss again with your hands and spread into a single layer.
Roast vegetables in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until they are browning at the edges, but still fairly juicy. Just before the vegetables are ready, bring 3 cups of vegetable broth to a boil in a large saucepan. When vegetables are done roasting, carefully add to the hot broth. If desired, add the additional cup of broth. Let soup simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes. Using the back of your stirring spoon, press some of the vegetables up against the side of the saucepan until they are smashed to help thicken the soup. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Serve piping hot with hunks of homemade bread.
Today is a special day for me. It was four years ago that D and I went on our first date. And what a first date it was. It started with a long stroll through the Philadelphia Museum of Art where we sat by the monastery courtyard fountain and he took my hand for the first time. Then we had a late lunch at More Than Just Ice Cream on Pine Street. He had the guacamole; I had the grilled cheese with tomatoes; and we both agreed that water is the only drink we ever order out. We shared an enormous slice of the house special: apple pie al la mode.
And because we were having so much fun already during that first encounter, we decided to catch a movie too. Does anyone remember that indie film Closer, the one with Damien Rice’s haunting melodies? While it was an interesting flick with a great soundtrack, it was most definitely NOT first date material, seeing as how it’s all about deception among couples. But somehow we made it through that and went on to have many more dates and here, 1460 days later, we’re celebrating another anniversary.
Sadly, we didn’t get to spend most of our special day together as he had a class to attend. But I decided to make something nice for a light bite when he got home. A recipe I spied in Eat Feed Autumn Winter (still equally in love with this book too) for Honey-Ginger Carrot Parsnip Latkes seemed like just the ticket. D was raised in a Jewish household and still has a soft spot for many of the traditional dishes he ate as a kid.
I was a bit nervous about making the latkes since I am not very experienced in the craft and the two main ingredients – parsnips and carrots – are not so traditional in and of themselves. But the recipes I’ve been testing out of Eat Feed Autumn Winter continuously surprise me (pleasantly of course) with how easy and delicious they are so I felt brave enough to give these contemporary latkes a try.
Tender inside and crisp on the outside, these fried “pancakes” have a wonderfully unique flavor brought about by combining the tropical hints of ginger with the floral notes of the honey and the natural sweetness of the root vegetables with the nip of crunchy coarse salt. Really rather unexpected, but again, a surprise of the pleasant variety. Using tender smaller carrots (from my garden) and parsnips (from the farm) helped, I think, so look for smaller ones if you can find them.
Oh, yes, and D liked the latkes too. Well, he appreciated them at least. Really he’s more of a potato latkes kinda guy. But after four years together, I already knew that.
Honey-Ginger Carrot & Parsnip Latkes
Adapted from Eat Feed Autumn Winter
- 1 C. packed of grated carrots
- 1 C. packed of grated parsnips
- 1 large egg
- 3 T. flour
- ½ t. salt
- 2 t. freshly grated ginger
- 2 t. honey
- Vegetable oil for fying
- Crème fraiche (optional)*
*Sometimes it’s wasteful to buy a whole tub of crème fraiche for a recipe such as this. You can cheat and make a good substitute out of cream cheese, a bit of milk or cream to loosen it up and a splash of lemon juice.
Grate the vegetables using the large holes on the box grater. Place grated vegetables on dish towel and squeeze tightly to remove as much water as possible. Set aside. Pour oil to a depth of 1/8 inch in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat while you prepare the latkes.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, flour, salt and ginger. Stir in the grated vegetables. Drizzle with honey and stir to combine.
Using a large spoon, carefully drop the vegetable mixture by large spoonfuls into the hot oil. Flatten slightly into disks and fry until you see the edges turning golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip and fry on the other side until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel. Serve hot with dollops of crème fraiche on top.
I don’t know about where you are, but around here, the smell of fall has been in the air all week. It’s especially heavy in the dewy cool morning light. I smile like the Mona Lisa when I’m walking to class or working in my garden. I’ve pulled the light sweaters out of the cedar chest. What is it about autumn that just makes life a little sweeter? And is there anyone out there that “hates” fall the way some people hate winter or summer? I can’t imagine disliking cool nights, crisp mornings, and warm (but not hot) sun in the afternoon.
With the advent of autumn on my doorstep, I start to move my menus from light cool fare to hearty comforting dishes. Today’s Corn and Tomato Bread Pudding is a great bridge between the bounty of summer and the more selective nature of fall. Fresh sweet corn cut off the cob pairs beautifully with hefty cubes of whole wheat bread, slivers of oven-dried tomatoes, and a generous sprinkling of sharp cheese.
I must say I was rather pleased to find my oven-dried tomatoes from last year that I’d tucked away in a cupboard and all but forgotten the past six months were still in perfect condition and very tasty in this dish. I’m actually about to start making a new batch of them now that my tomato plants are in overdrive, but its good to know the dried ones last so long. In lieu of your own oven-dried tomatoes, use store-bought sun-dried (don’t be fooled; there’s no “sun” involved, just sulfur) tomatoes that are packed dry, not in oil.
This dish makes for fantastic segues…first oven-dried tomatoes and now on to oven-dried corn. Yes, I’ll be drying more corn this year. I’d encourage you to do the same. And, after making this bread pudding, I think it’s a perfect candidate for dried corn in winter too. I plan to reconstitute the dried corn in a little warm milk and then continue with the recipe as instructed. It’s a relief to know I can still savor the flavors of local sweet corn and tomatoes in the midst of a snow storm.
And, while on the subject of preserving summer’s flavors, don’t forget to gather up plenty of fresh basil to puree and freeze. I’m fairly certain tossing a thawed cube of basil puree in the winter version of this bread pudding would be a smashing success. But! Don’t wait for cold gusts of wind to try this recipe. It really is a superb late summer dish too, with all the intensity of flavor that only fresh produce can provide.
Ironically, after all this hubbub about heartier dishes for fall and getting prepared for winter, I just made a few other recipes I’ll be posting shortly that are all about the easy breezy summer salad mentality. But when you think about it, that’s just what this short and sweet time of year is all about: getting to take your pick of both seasons!
Corn & Tomato Bread Pudding
Adapted from Fresh and Simple Vegetable Dinners
- 3 tablespoons chopped dried tomatoes
- 4 beaten eggs
- 1 ½ C. half & half
- 1 T. fresh chopped basil
- 4 C. cubed day-old wheat bread
- 1 ½ C. fresh corn kernels
- 1 C. shredded cheddar or herbed hard cheese
Place dried tomato in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Allow to soak for 10-15 minutes to soften. Drain.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, half & half, and basil. Set aside. In an ungreased two-quart baking dish, toss together the bread cubes, corn, cheese, and softened tomatoes pieces. (If you wish to make this dish ahead of time, cover and refrigerate the egg mixture and bread mixture separately for up to 24 hours.)
Carefully pour the egg mixture over the bread in the baking dish. Bake at 375 F for 35-40 minutes, uncovered, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly and serve with fresh wedges of tomato.
Alright, I’ll be honest here folks. The creative juices just aren’t flowing today. It might have something to do with the celebratory scotch last night, or it might have to do with my long-time-coming admission to myself that I just don’t like turnips all that much. Yep, you heard me right. I don’t like cooked turnips. I tried and I tried. I roasted them. I put them in soup. I put them in potpie (which I do admit wasn’t all that bad). I fried them. And now I’ve finally mashed them with roasted garlic. If roasted garlic can’t endear them to my taste buds, nothing can.
Oddly enough, I don’t mind them raw. On a good day, I might even crave them in a salad.
It’s a shame really that cooked turnips and I can’t get along. The humble turnip has quite the reputation after all. In ancient civilization, it was considered the vegetable of choice for nobility. Around the same time, some folks were using fermented turnips for an unusual brew. Mmmm…turnip beer… In America’s early colonies, turnips were as valuable as coinage, being used as currency in the marketplace. Heck, sometime in the 17th and 18th centuries, there purportedly was an “Age of the Turnip”, thanks to the introduction of new varieties that made turnips an even more valuable crop for farmers.
I was all excited to try out this mashed turnip idea. It’s a shame my “Age of the Turnip” isn’t meant to be. But if you like cooked turnips, I have no doubt it’ll be a delish dish for you. If I weren’t adverse to cooked turnips, I’d definitely be incorporating this twist on the classic mashed potatoes into my Thanksgiving fare. The vivid Scarlet Queen variety that I included with the milder white Hakurei gave the mash a delicate pink hue and (unfortunately for me since I’m not a fan) a spicier flavor.
If you’re not a cooked turnip fan like me, there’s still something to take away from this recipe. Roasting garlic is shamefully easy but changes everything when you add it to mashed potatoes. Once roasted, garlic mellows and sweetens its flavor. I’d go so far as to say it gets almost buttery so it’s a wonderful compliment to many dishes that typically include butter as a key flavor agent – in particular, anything with corn, carrots, or potatoes will benefit from roasted garlic. The farm’s German Extra Hardy variety is very pungent raw and roasts up beautifully with still distinctive notes of fresh garlic behind the stronger sweet caramelized flavor.
Turnip and Roasted Garlic Mash
A Straight from the Farm original
- 2 bunches of mild turnips (Hakurei variety works well)
- 1 large head of garlic
- 2 T. butter
- generous pinches of salt and pepper
- fresh chives to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place whole head of garlic, unpeeled, on a baking sheet lined with foil. Roast garlic in oven for 30 minutes or until very squishy. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
While garlic is roasting, bring a large pot of salted water up to a boil. Wash turnips well, trimming off tops and roots. Cut into 1 inch pieces and boil until tender, about 20 minutes depending on the variety. Drain off water and allow to sit for five minutes. Turnips will release more water as they cool. Drain additional water off and use either a potato masher or an electric mixer to begin mashing up the turnips.
Cut a half inch off the top of the roasted head of garlic, exposing the cloves inside. With your hand, squeeze out all the garlic pulp into the turnips. Add butter and salt and pepper before continuing to mash turnips to the desired consistency. If turnips appear to be releasing more water after being mashed, drain it off and add more salt if necessary.
Serve immediately with a few snips of fresh garlic chives. If desired, serve cooked turnip tops along side turnip mash. To cook turnip tops, simple wash and roughly chop. Heat olive oil or butter in a skillet and add turnips when hot. Season with salt and pepper. Turnip greens are fairly bitter.
With both the farmers out of town this weekend, I didn’t need to spend Sunday at the Headhouse Market. Instead I took this extra time to leisurely harvest some flowers for drying and to take some end-of-season photos of the farm. With all the hustle and bustle that my typical Sunday mornings at the farm require in the hurry to get to market, I hadn’t slowed down enough lately to notice how the season is coming to an obvious halt.
I’m no stranger to the changing of the seasons, having grown up on a farm that ebbed and flowed with the shortening and lengthening of the days. But somehow this year on this farm, I’m still in disbelief that it’s almost over for 2007. Now that’s not to say that there won’t be harvesting going on for another month or more at Weavers Way, particularly if this warm streak keeps up. There’ll be plenty of turnips, radishes, greens, and beets to come along yet. It’s just that now instead of lush row-upon-row of tomato vines and shoulder-high okra stalks, there are mostly empty beds with fuzzy baby sprouts of the clover we’re using for a winter covering. I’m just not prepared for this decline…not yet. The past six months have zipped along at light speed, more so than usual. With each passing week, the farm’s fields haven’t just fed my body with amazing produce. They’ve also been feeding my heart and soul with passion and energy.
But autumn is my favorite season, and winter is a good time to work on those projects I’ve put to the side in the flurry of the growing season (hello knitting needles, my old friends!). I’m sure the work for the farm will continue too; just in a different way. I’ll have seed catalogs to pour over, picking out new flowers to suggest trying for next year’s mixed bouquets and maybe even some edible varieties. And there’s the chance to try out all the goodies in my bevy of dried and canned preserves. Not to mention the interesting facts and stories I plan to share with you about urban farming and my personal “foodie” heroes who championed eating locally and seasonally long before it was trendy. And together we’ll find out how long one can store beets and turnips on the basement floor.
So you see, the sight of brown declining tomato vines and the likes is bittersweet for me. I have no doubt that a lot of wonderful exchanges have yet to take this year…I anticipate exploring lots of new avenues and ideas myself and with you. And goodness knows the farmers need a break – they’ve been working 10+ hours a day, six days a week since March. But as I help plant hundreds of tulip and daffodil bulbs at the farm over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be dreaming of springtime blooms and a booming farm again.
I suspect contemplative thoughts like these are what moved me to put bitter mustard greens with sweet apples in a dish that’s easy to make and rich in flavor. Any greens would work here – mustard, kale, collards, chard, beet tops, or even sorrel if you like a really intense bitterness. I choose to give the farm’s new dark purple mustard greens, a variety called Osaka Purple, a try this time around. Did you know mustard greens, much like swiss chard, have ridiculously high amounts of vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium and fiber, among other things? Since this variety is purple, it also has potential cancer-fighting phytochemicals. And the addition of toasted pine nuts really rounded out the trio of taste sensations on the tongue.
I guess this switch to autumn crops isn’t so bad. After all, there’re only so many fresh tomatoes a girl can eat. Though I’m sure I’ll retract that statement by January.
BITTERSWEET AND NUTTY MIXED GREENS
A Straight from the Farm original
- 1 large bunch of mustard greens, about 20 leaves
- 2 baby leeks
- 1 baby bok choy
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 T. soy sauce
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 small firm apples (I used Nittany)
- 1 T. butter
- 1 T. raw sugar
- pinch of cinnamon
- 1/2 c. pine nuts
Wash and dry apples. Cut out core and dice into 1/2 inch cubes. Melt butter in a medium skillet and add apples. Sprinkle with raw sugar and cook over medium low heat until soft and somewhat caramelized/browned. Remove from heat and set aside on your serving dish.
Toast pine nuts on a small baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes until golden.
Wash greens, leeks and bok choy thoroughly. Cut off any tough stems on the greens, roots and tough green tops of the leeks, and base of the baby bok choy. Cut everything into one inch wide strips. Using the same skillet as before, heat olive oil over medium high heat and saute garlic slices until golden. Add chopped greens, leeks and bok choy, stirring constantly until everything is noticeably wilted (about 90 seconds). Lower heat to low and stir in soy sauce. Continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes until greens are tender. Salt and pepper to taste.
Combine apples and pine nuts with the greens in the skillet. Toss well and serve immediately.
I’m starting to feel like a broken record here but it’s really true…I love cooking with my mom. Besides the fact that she’s a great cook herself, she’s got all this amazing know-how that you just don’t find in cookbooks. And she has a couple of recipes that I don’t dare mess with on my own. I’m talking about those childhood favorites that never taste the same when you attempt to recreate them yourself as an adult.
I don’t think I’ll ever make mac & cheese on my own. It’s a shame really because I love mac & cheese and when the dreaded day comes that my mom is no longer in the kitchen, I’ll have to go without mac & cheese for the rest of my life. See, she makes the best mac & cheese…with raw cows milk, lots of velvety cheese and then this amazing bread crumb topping that gets all crusty and golden. And she bakes it in the same casserole dish every time, which seems to be the perfect size for what is a precise ratio of chewy golden pasta bites around the edges and melty cheesy bites in the middle. Pardon me while I wipe this bit of drool off my keyboard.
I also love her mashed potatoes, but I finally got myself to make those by deciding I wasn’t going to try to recreate hers, but rather to come up with my own variation. Mine includes goat cheese stirred and melted into the hot potatoes (instead of her hunk of butter) and an extra pinch of sea salt. I still like hers better, if only for sentimental and/or the-wiring-in-my-brain-was-set-for-life-at-age-five reasons. Mashed potatoes and mac & cheese…the second and third best comfort foods.
I say second and third best because there’s another dish that stands at the front of that comfort food line. Homemade old-fashioned apple dumplings were a thing of sheer indulgence during my childhood. We didn’t have them all that often, but when we did, it meant life was good. Truth be told though, I’d almost forgotten about them until a month or so ago, when I was eating out and saw them on the menu. Of course I ordered a dumpling for dessert, but it just wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be. The apple dumplings of my childhood were large – gianormous really – made with a whole apple brimming with cinnamon sugary delight and snuggly down in a flaky sugary crust. What I had at the restaurant was a small half apple with scant cinnamon and a dark egg-washed glossy crust around it. I knew then and there that I’d have to recreate the apple dumplings of my memory. But I wasn’t about to do it on my own.
Yep, back to good ol’ mom. I roped her into teaching me all about apple dumplings at the same time we ferreted out the method for pickling pears. Her recipe for dumplings also comes from a Pennsylvania Grange Cookbook, just like the pickled pears recipe, although the dumplings are in a different edition. I’m glad I went to the source for the original recipe. Left to my own devices, I would have likely used a basic pie dough recipe for the pastry. Turns out the dough for the dumplings has the addition of milk, making it more elastic and granting greater forgiveness when pulling it up around the apples, something a novice like me needed. But really, the apple dumplings turned out to be pretty simple. Thanks to the little mom tutorial, I’m confident I can successfully recreate this childhood favorite on my own now.
Never content to leave well enough alone, we did take a few liberties with the recipe just for fun. I wanted to leave out the butter that usually got drizzled over the apples before they’re wrapped up. Despite the obvious health benefits of this, I just didn’t think it was necessary with the buttery dough too. I didn’t miss it at all when chowing down on the hot dumplings topped with vanilla ice cream. We also added some dried cranberries in the hollowed out core of the apples. They were a nice little surprise that I’d add again next time. We doubled the cinnamon and sugar (which is reflected in the recipe below because I think you should too). We got rid of the red food coloring in the syrup…it just seemed stupid. Our hypothesis is that food coloring was still a novelty when the recipe’s cookbook was printed so housewives were probably eager to show off their status as a culinary expert by “enhancing” colors wherever they could. And finally, we topped the completed (but still unbaked) dumplings with little cinnamon drops/red hots to add visual interest and an extra punch of cinnamon flavor at first bite.
A quick word about the apples themselves: We don’t grow them (yet) at Weavers Way Farm so I snagged mine from the lovely folks at Three Springs Fruit Farm, a neighboring stand to ours at the Headhouse Farmers Market. These guys have the best apples! For these dumplings, I selected a large sweet baking apple (that I can’t remember the name of for the life of me right now) from their many crates. My mom also made a second batch with Granny Smiths at the same time we made these. Both varieties turned out delicious dumplings. The only rule of thumb here is to use solid apples that will hold their shape once baked. Avoid soft eating apples like Red Delicious as they’ll sag and likely cause the pastry crust to crack and cave in.
Childhood memories were never so sweet as these apple dumplings were for me. What’s your favorite childhood dish that equals the ultimate comfort food for you as an adult?
OLD-FASHIONED APPLE DUMPLINGS
My mom’s recipe (taken originally from an old PA Grange cookbook)
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 t. baking powder
- 1 t. salt
- 2/3 c. butter (still cold)
- 1/2 c. milk
- 4 large apples
- 6 T. white sugar
- 3 T. ground cinnamon
- 2 t. ground nutmeg
- 1/2 c. dried cranberries (optional)
- 1 1/2 c. white sugar
- 1 1/2 c. water
- 1/4 t. ground cinnamon
- 1/8 t. ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375 F. Peel apples and, using a kitchen gadget or sharp knife, remove all of the cores. Slice off just a small amount at the top and bottom of each apple to flatten them out so they’ll wrap in the dough easier. Rinse off the apples in cold water and dab dry with a paper towel. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter, using your hands to squish everything together, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in milk all at once and stir to form a dough. Add a little more flour if needed to make the dough less sticky. Do not overwork the dough as you want it to remain light and tender. Split the dough ball in half and on a floured surface, roll out one half to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into two 6″ squares.
Place a whole apple in the center of a dough square. Mix together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg listed under “Apples” above. Generously dust each apple with this mixture and fill the core with cranberries and a little more sugar mixture. Moisten the edges of the pastry square with a finger dipped in cool water and bring the corners together at the top of the apple. Press edges together to seal and pinch together any tears in the dough around the apple.
Repeat the rolling out of the second half of the dough and creating the other two dumplings. Place all four dumplings in a baking dish, one inch apart, and decorate with dough cut-outs of leaves or any other creative flare you can think to use.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the ingredients listed under “Syrup” above. Bring to a boil then remove from heat to cool slightly. Pour the syrup over the dumplings and sprinkle with additional sugar (this forms a delectable golden crust once baked). Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, until apples are tender (use a fork poked into them to test) and dough is nicely browned.
Best served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Can be stored in fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven at 200 F for 15 minutes.
I toyed with titling this post “Kohlrabi Part II” but thought better of it. I suspect you will all be sick of hearing me rave about kohlrabi by the end of this summer. But until then, welcome to a second adventurous recipe using kohlrabi.
I often putz around in the kitchen, twisting perfectly normal recipes into oddities, much to the ire of my boyfriend, D. All the poor guy wants is a veggie burger and some stuffing prepared out of a box. I don’t like things when they’re so simple. Why not try something new and different, right?
Thus, inspired by my time in Argentina earlier this year, a passing conversation with a farm volunteer on Saturday who’d studied in Buenos Aires, and my current adoration of the aforementioned vegetable, I went into the kitchen to come up with a unique fusion of South American and Indian ingredients.
When I was in Mendoza in the northwest of Argentina, I consumed (voraciously, I might add) the most interesting corn and red pepper empanadas, which I’ve since recreated at home. My time at the farm this weekend yielded more kohlrabi (of the white variety this time) and very tender yellow squash, along with some scallions and radishes. Gathering those together in one recipe tucked into a pocket of flaky dough proved to be pure genius, if I do say so myself. D agrees (and he’s a tough customer).
Without further ado, I present Kohlrabi & Squash Empanadas, an original “straight from the farm”.
Kohlrabi & Squash Empanadas
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 inch of ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 medium kohlrabies, peeled and cut into small cubes
- 1 large summer squash, cut into small cubes
- 2 large scallions, both white and green parts, finely cut
- 1 radish, minced (optional)
- 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 T. butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- dash of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 box of pre-made pie crust or one batch homemade*
- 1 egg
In a medium skillet, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger to brown. Add kohlrabi cubes, a pinch of salt and some pepper. Toss well and cook 3 or 4 minutes until kohlrabi are softening a bit. Add squash cubes and continue to cook for 4 more minutes. Add scallions, radish, nutmeg and another pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well and cook for one minute before removing from heat. Set mixture to this side to cool.
Roll out dough to be a little thinner than pie crust typically is. If you are using pre-made crust from the store, run your rolling pin over it once or twice. Using a cereal bowl or large circular cookie cutter, cut out 6 inch-ish circles from the dough. It should yield about 15, give or take depending on your cutter and dough thickness.
Pre-heat oven to 425F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Prepare egg wash by beating egg with a teaspoon of water and set to the side along with a small bowl of water.
To make the empanadas, spoon one tablespoon of kohlrabi and squash mixture into the center of a circle of dough. (It’s better to have less filling than too much or the empanadas won’t hold together. Feel out the right ratio that allows you to close off the dough without any filling popping out.) Dip your finger in the bowl of water and run it around the outside edge of the dough. Fold dough over the filling to create a half circle. Press down edges. Carefully pick up the dough pocket and pinch edges (see photo) to seal them tightly. A fork can also be used to crimp the edges if you want a less tedious method.
Repeat above process to finish all the empanadas, laying them on the lined cookie sheet when done. With a fork, prick the tops once and brush with egg wash. Bake for 8 minutes and turn over. Bake another 5 to 7 minutes until deep golden brown and flaky. Best served straight from the oven.
*A word about the dough. For this particular post, I used pre-made pie crust since I was in a hurry to get to the party where I was premiering these little lovelys. Normally, I use my standard pie crust recipe. I have to admit the pre-made crust was just as good (and a heck of a lot faster). However, I still intend to try this recipe for true empanada dough at some point. In short, make it as simple or intricate as you like.
**Also, I’m sure you could add chicken to this recipe and it’d be quite tasty. In fact, you could just serve the filling on its own for a quick side dish when you’re too short on time to make the empanadas.