roasted eggplant puree for pasta

Early in the summer, I had experimented with a batch of garlic scape pesto only to find myself terribly disappointed.

Today’s pasta sauce was the antithesis of that.

I was home from work by 6pm, and I’m away from the office for the rest of the week. I went to visit the plants in the garden before heading inside, and saw that some of the eggplant my mother planted was ready to be picked. I had three pretty eggplants in my greedy hands, and didn’t know what to do with them. I knew I wanted to roast them in some manner, but not much more than that.

Then, I remembered seeing an eggplant puree recipe in one of my library books. On page 130 of Giada’s Kitchen by Giada De Laurentiis was a recipe for “penne with eggplant puree.” I used the method but didn’t follow the ingredients  exactly, and still I was very pleased with the end results.

Roasted Eggplant Puree for Pasta
inspired by Giada De Laurentiis

3 small eggplants, unpeeled, cut into one inch pieces
a large handful of sweet grape tomatoes (from the market… I wish I hadn’t eaten all my tomatoes. I pop ’em like candy if they’re sweet)
2 small onions, quartered (from my CSA)
1 small bell pepper, cut into medium slices (I had a purple one from the CSA)
garlic powder (I’m out of fresh garlic cloves)
salt
red pepper flakes
olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup basil leaves, torn

Heat your oven to 400F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a separate baking dish or sheet, spread out the pine nuts and set aside.

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A (mostly) white vegetable soup recipe

What do you do when you’ve got a small cabbage head and a bunch of small carrots from your CSA? Not to mention that your mother bought you half a nagaimo (Japanese mountain yam) and a couple of chayote squash for no reason?

Soup!

And I must be absolutely mad to be making soup on a hot summer Sunday evening (a little humid and 90F!). It was only made possible by the lone air conditioner in my apartment which was strategically placed in the kitchen.

I was inspired by two driving forces: by the memory of the shiso-white wine-chicken recipe in “Ancient Kitchen, Modern Wisdom,” and by my belief that chayote squash doesn’t pair well with traditional herbs. (I roasted chayote squash once with dried basil, and discovered it was one of the worse pairings I could have done.  It generally tastes good with spices.)

Here’s how the (mostly) white vegetable soup went:

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veggie CSA, no. 5, 2011

Last week’s share:
Salad Mix 0.5lb (split between me and my sister)
Cabbage 1 (me)
Basil 1 bunch (me)
Chard 1 bunch (my sister)
Snap peas (pint) 1 (me)

This week’s share:
Lettuce (head) 1 (my sister)
Carrots (bunch)  1 (me, only because my sister had just purchased carrots)
Basil (bunch) 1 (me)
Cukes (lb) 1 (4 small cucumbers, I took 3)
snap peas (me)
new potatoes (my sister)

I’ve learned that my sister doesn’t like snap peas.  As for the basil, I’ve been getting them because my sister doesn’t think she’ll use it fast enough and she has no place to store it.  Basil cuttings prefer being kept in a container of water, instead of being stored in the fridge.  Our CSA cuttings are really short because they are prunings really, which makes it hard to put in water.  Basil leaves don’t like sitting in water.  They will wither or get blotchy.  Right now, I have some with a longer stem in a used soda bottle.  For my short ones, I’m trying out using an ice cube tray as a plant container.  I have water in every other cube so that the basil leaves can fan out without getting wet (hopefully).  So long as I don’t kill them, my sister can grab some whenever she wants.  Or if too many of them grow roots, out into some dirt in the yard they will go. 

Meal-wise, I haven’t done anything interesting with my CSA so far.  I’ve been enjoying it prepared as simple as possible.  (My only failure so far is letting arugula go to waste.  At least, I think that’s my only CSA “d’oh! moment” so far.)  I boiled my beets from a couple of weeks ago.  From last week, I ate the salad mix straight up.  The cabbage is still in the fridge and looking ok, while the snap peas were boiled for a few minutes and then eaten along side some pasta.

I’m trying to decide what to do with my carrots (I must cook them as I am allergic to raw carrots).  Some recipes under consideration are:
http://fullmeasureofhappiness.com/2011/07/06/carrot-cake-green-monster/(will need to cook carrots before blending)
http://www.cookiemadness.net/2008/03/carrot-cake-breakfast-cookies/ 
http://www.bhg.com/recipe/bars/carrot-and-zucchini-bars/
http://www.ledelicieux.com/2011/05/02/roasted-carrot-soup/  
or pickled carrots?

But now I’m thinking about making a soup with the carrots and the cabbage.  Maybe with thyme and white wine?  I do have some old white wine in my fridge.  Hmmm…

veggie CSA, no. 4, 2011

Did you know that beets are actually the same species as Swiss Chard? Swiss chard is bred to have big colorful leaves, while beets are bred to have big juicy roots, but you can absolutely eat the root of a chard plant, or the greens of a beet. We at the farm almost never eat chard, just because beet greens are more plentiful and virtually indistinguishable from chard once cooked. For now, we’ll be bunching beets with their tops on, so that each bunch is basically like getting two items in one. For more info and recipes, see our Veggipedia entries on Beets and Chard

Also, we’re giving out green garlic this week to full shares. Garlic plants, as you know from last week’s share, are completely edible. The green garlic plants we’ll give out are not yet fully mature, but you can cut up and mince the stalks and leaves and use any way you’d normally use garlic.

For herbs this week, we are going to roll out lots of mint, since it is kicking butt this year and the rest of the herbs have been struggling to keep up with our harvest schedule. There are lots of fun things to do with mint. You can use them in some cooking dishes, but it also goes good in many cocktails (mojitos, mint julep), or make mint tea, or for the adventurous bake it into chocolate brownies or fudge. See our veggipedia’s Mint page for lots of ideas.

This is our best guess of what will come in the Stone Soup shares this week.

Please remember that sometimes we can’t harvest exactly what we expect!
Lettuce (SE and I split this)
Beets (also split)
Herbs (we only got a bunch of mint… which SE gave to me)
Other bunched item (turned out to be baby turnips again… I told SE to keep them and give them a try)

Oh yay… more mint. NOT! Too much mint in my fridge!

I chopped it finally with some parsley and basil from the garden, used it to top of chickpeas, threw in some extra virgin olive oil and rice vinegar, and finely diced some sweet peppers.

The tops of the beets were separated and quickly wilted in duck broth, and served with udon noodles in a bowl.  I liked the flavor of the beet greens.  But it made my mouth feel really dry, the same way that spinach affects me but to a lesser degree.  The only downside of serving the beet greens in the duck broth was that the flavor of my duck broth became blander (the color was pretty – a little pinkish!).

I should remember to cook my beets.  But now it’s hot so I don’t feel like cooking.  I wonder what will show up in the CSA tomorrow.

The lettuce was so sweet that I was pretty happy to eat it straight.  I also ate some with my chickpea salad.

veggie CSA, no. 3, 2011

(haha, another entry that I’m posting later than I had originally intended.  CSA #4 is tomorrow… I wonder what it will be!)

“Things are still pretty green at the farm. Until the cukes and zucchini start yielding the shares tend to be pretty light and leafy. But lots of goodies on the way: tomatoes and sweet corn are growing steadily, onion are growing up fast, melons are on the way, and sugar snap peas are just around the corner now. This week we’ll be rolling out garlic scapes, the twisty goofy looking flower heads of the garlic plant. 100% of the garlic plant is edible, including the scapes, which need to come off the plant this time of year anyways. If you leave the flower on the plant, it devotes a lot of its energy to seed, which means less for the bulb. By taking off the flower, we redirect the plants’ energy towards growing a big fat bulb at the base, which is what we prefer. Scapes are actually super versatile, taste exactly the same as garlic cloves, but less intense. Use them any way you would normally use garlic. You can also make some bangin’ green pesto with them, or just hit them with olive oil and salt and roast them in the oven like you would asparagus. They mellow out upon roasting and are super tasty just eaten whole.

This is our best guess of what will come in the Stone Soup shares this week.

Please remember that sometimes we can’t harvest exactly what we expect!

Lettuce (head) 1
Garlic Scapes (lb) 0.25
Herbs (bunch) 1
Arugula (bunch) 1”

SE decided to only keep the lettuce. She let me keep the herbs (purple basil), arugula, and garlic scapes. Ok, I called dibs on the garlic scapes, but I would have thought that she wanted the arugula.

Poor arugula, it has been insect-chomped to kingdom come.

So, what did I do with this week’s CSA so far? I decided to take the garlic scapes (I had about 3.3 oz in reality), the basil (about 1 oz.), two handfuls of pine nuts, a pinch of salt, extra virgin olive oil (1/3 c. + 1/4 c.) and squeeze of half a lemon to my blender. Garlic scape pesto! I think I used just a tad too much oil and pine nuts, but that’s ok.

The true taste test?  I took the garlic scape pesto to pasta.  It was very green tasting.  Not in a bad way, but I realize now that I should have added cheese.  Plus, I’m such a basil pesto fan that I found myself wanting to add more basil to my garlic scape pesto.

I have a whole jar of this pesto, so I’ll be trying to think up of other applications.  I think the next one might be pizza.  (^_^)

Let’s Talk About Food, 2011

(I meant to post this yesterday but I didn’t finish it before I went to bed.)

Along the DCR Cambridge Parkway today, the Museum of Science and its sponsors held the “Let’s Talk About Food” festival.

I didn’t go last year. I had never even heard of it until about two weeks ago when I saw an ad banner for it inside a Red Line subway car.

The blurb on the official homepage says this about the festival:

We all eat. Rich or poor. Several times a day –– if we can. Food is the central feature of human society.  Food forms the basis of our cultural traditions, creates community, optimizes or sabotages our health, affects our environment, provides livelihoods, impacts our global economy, and nourishes the next generation.
Food has become a major focus in our society. And what we’ve learned is: People want to talk about it. They want to know. They want to learn. And they like to eat.
Launched in Boston 2010, in dynamic partnership with the Museum of Science, Let’s Talk About Food Initiative hopes to become a national, educational, event driven, organization that creates programs to increase the level of public literacy about all aspects of our food system – from sustainability, to cooking, to obesity and other food-related health issues, to fishing and farming, food access, food justice, food safety, environmental concerns, agriculture and nutrition policy, and at the same time celebrates the richness that good food brings to our world.

I went with my sister and my mom. After some discussion, we decided that we wanted to be there by 10:40a for the main stage demo called “In the Spotlight: Cooking with Honey” which was led by Chef Charles Draghi (Erbaulce) and Christy Hemenway (Gold Star Honeybees). Due to our bus schedule, we ended up at the festival at about 10:15a. Even though it technically opened at 10am, an early morning storm seemed to slow everyone down. We probably should have hit up more vendor booths at that time, most of them were set up, but it was so muddy that we just headed over to the main stage tent. Over there, we spent some time at the Whole Foods tent sampling a biscotti-looking snack made from dates, raisins, and other wholesome goodness. The Whole Foods tent was also giving out organic apples and re-useable Whole Foods backpack (it’s the kind of tote where you pull the cords to close it and then slip your arms through to cords to wear as a backpack).

During “Cooking with Honey,” we were shown a couple of ways to work raw honey into recipes. The first recipe was a Parmesan snack. First, you grate some Parmesan rind and fry it in a pan until it cooks into a wafer (and flip to quickly cook the other side). Then, you top the wafer with fresh apples or fresh pears (feel free to spice up the fruit with nutmeg or anything you’re in the mood for). Finally, spoon some raw honey on top to finish, and serve. Chef Draghi said that this snack would pair well with a nice rosé. The second recipe given (but not demonstrated) was a summer drink: 2T raw honey and 1 tsp lemon juice mixed into 16 oz fizzy water, served with mint leaves muddled/crushed.

I got to sample the Parmesan wafer. It was good but I’m not a huge cheese lover so I found the parm flavor to be a little too strong. Also, noticed that I was allergic to the raw honey since I do not consuming it regularly enough to build up a tolerance to the pollen inside it.

Next to take the stage was Chef Jody Adams of Rialto! She and Governor Deval Patrick showed us a way to serve lobster (which smelled divine even from the audience seats… trust me). They were a lot of fun to watch – friendly interactions and humor.

Here’s a photo of Jody Adams after putting a Rialto chef’s jacket onto Deval Patrick. Sorry it’s a crappy photo. I forgot to grab a camera on my way out so this is picture was taken with a phone.

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shiso/wine/soy sauce chicken with steamed veggies

As for last week’s CSA, I steamed my baby turnips and kohlrabi. I peeled the skin off the kohlrabi but I should have peeled a little deeper. It was quite fibrous and hard to chew. Flavor-wise, the two veggies are very similar: very clean tasting and a sweet. I preferred the turnips over the kohlrabi. The turnips were very delicate in texture, while the kohlrabi probably could have steamed a minute or two longer. In addition to being more fibrous, the flavor of kohlrabi seemed duller to me.

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