Friday, October 25, 2013

Week Twenty: All Done

Sometime over the weekend, fall snuck up on me. Mostly it was the waking up in the dark all week that threw me – it makes Monday that much harder to start off when I have to fumble around the house in the dark. It also started getting REALLY cold at night… like frost advisory cold! Hard to believe that this time last year we were enjoying high 60s to low 70s and sunshiny days (and getting married! … oh, and prepping for Sandy!). 
Rainbow over Lexington Center.
We had our final pickup in almost total darkness – the farm parking lot isn’t lit (and had next to no cars in it), so I actually wondered for a minute if the pickup time had changed. But we turned the corner and there was the barn, lit up and waiting for us. We got lettuce, potatoes, scallions, broccoli, sweet potatoes, peppers, celery, a rutabaga, and parsnips. I went a little crazy with the last chance to get new stuff. The newsletter included a recipe for a yummy-sounding spiced rutabaga cake, so I definitely wanted to try that, and I’d never had parsnips before either.

The final harvest.
Last night our friend Sam had a Mary Kay party, so I needed (well, wanted!) to bring something over to snack on. This recipe for roasted broccoli queso popped up in the “other posts you might like” on Macheesmo, so of course that was going to be it! Perfect timing. It turned out pretty well, I think, although I probably shouldn’t have let it heat to nuclear temps in my tiny dipper crock pot… whoops! We still enjoyed it, though, and we had a great time getting makeovers and talking skin care and girly stuff.
Sam and the Minion!
Stay tuned later this week for a recap of the season. I may also start posting elsewhere for “other” cooking adventures, as this has been kind of fun!
We were allowed "two pounds" of rutabaga... which was, in my case, this bad boy.
 Roasted Broccoli Cheddar Queso Dip (adapted, not very much, from Macheesmo)

2 cups broccoli florets (I had about 1 cup of farm broccoli so I used up a bag of frozen broccoli)
1 four-ounce can of chopped green chiles (I did the best I could with the 7 oz can from Market Basket)
¼ white onion, grated or very very finely diced
¼ cup flour
¼ cup butter
2 cups milk, warmed
8 ounces grated cheddar cheese

Toss the broccoli with a little olive oil and salt & pepper, then roast at 350* for about 20 minutes. Stir everything around once or twice to keep from getting too brown and burn-y.

Make the queso while the broccoli does its thing:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the grated onion and chiles, and let cook about 5 minutes so the onions get nice and soft and sort of start melting away. Add the flour and whisk, whisk, whisk! Cook another 4 or 5 minutes to cook out the “flour” taste – it should be golden/tan. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook until slightly thickened and warmed through. Add the cheese in stages, stirring, until it’s all incorporated.

Let the broccoli cool a little bit before chopping it up even more, then gently stir into the cheese. Serve with chips, thinly sliced and toasted bread, or veggies.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Recipe: Fennel Risotto

I love risotto. I would happily make it for dinner every night. To me it's totally worth all the "hassle" of stirring and slowly adding liquid. I always make it with stock, though, because it adds so much flavor. I picked up a bulb of fennel a couple weeks ago and realized I had no idea what to do with it... but then I thought risotto would be good. The internet provided plenty of inspiration, as usual, and I ended up with a pretty tasty dish!
Chop chop chop!
Caramelized Fennel Risotto (adapted from The Corner Kitchen)
Notes: Don't worry about the licorice/anise smell of the fennel. You barely notice it in the final dish. I panicked briefly when I was prepping because Dan hates licorice (to the point where he won't even kiss me if I've eaten black licorice jelly beans!) - but most recipes assured me that it wouldn't be an issue.

1 bulb fennel, cored and diced, fronds reserved
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 T cooking oil
1-2 T butter
1 cup arborio rice
3 cups chicken stock or water, kept warm on the side
1 c Parmesan cheese (we have pecorino Romano at the house)

Heat the butter and oil in a medium-size, deep saucepan over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook slowly until caramelized, about 30 or so minutes. I was very impatient so I didn't cook as long as I could have.
Cook faster!
When nice and caramelized, add the rice and stir to coat in the oil. Cook a few minutes until the grains turn translucent, then add about 3/4 cup stock. It will sizzle, so make sure to stir up the yummy bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir until the liquid is almost fully incorporated, then add another 3/4 cup stock. Continue stirring and adding stock until the rice is tender and creamy. Taste to make sure it's done enough for you, adding more stock or water if needed.
Almost done.
Stir in the cheese, remove from the heat, and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with additional cheese and finely chopped fennel fronds to garnish.
Finished product. It was great!

Week Nineteen: Samesies

I got to hang out with my favorite “other guy” this weekend while Dan was away. It was a tiring weekend – between getting up at the crack of dawn for walks, running around on the beach, and chasing the laser pointer (him, not me!), I was completely wiped out by Sunday night. Dan finally got home late Tuesday night, so now I’m happy. 
Totally wiped out. 
We’ve sort of gotten into a routine at the farm – we check in, ooh and aah over the things we haven’t used before, and get mostly the same vegetables week to week. It was actually pretty hard to pick our veggies this week. Aly had the excuse of being excited for Nationals this weekend, but I think I’m in a rut! But there’s just one more week to go, and I got some butternut squash… soup is on the menu this weekend for sure. We picked up a red onion, carrots, lettuce, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, and regular potatoes.
My squashes. I call them Bert and Ernie.
I made chicken soup for dinner last night with my farm carrots and onion. We didn’t have any celery, though, and I wish I’d added some garlic – but it was well-received! As an almost-afterthought I added the rice part of a rice pilaf mix, which I think worked well (I’ll use more next time). Small pasta would work well, too: stars, alphabets, stuff like that.
Sweet potatoes. If you were curious, my attempt at gnocchi had .... interesting results. Details to come.
Chicken and Rice Soup (cobbled together from a few different sources)

3 chicken breasts*, trimmed of excess fat
1-2 carrots, cut into ¾” cubes (I used 1.5 of my carrots)
1 small onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or sliced thin
2 quarts chicken stock, water, or a mix of the two (veg stock might also work well)
Veg oil for browning
1 cup long grain rice

Heat a small amount of oil in a big Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. When hot, add the chicken to the pan and cook until browned – you may have to do this in batches. Add in the diced vegetables and cook for a minute or two. Add the stock or water, cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, add the rice and reduce head to medium-low. Simmer about 20-25 minutes, until rice is tender.

About 5 or so minutes before the rice is done, fish out the chicken and shred or chop small on a cutting board. Add back to the pot to rewarm through, and then serve hot with crackers or cheese croutons.

*You could also do this with a whole chicken, though you’d probably need to increase the proportions of the other ingredients to account for the additional meat. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Week Eighteen: Hearty Veggies

This weekend was a success for my cooking and baking adventures. I had a couple interesting mishaps at my class (like adding about 3 tablespoons of pepper to a dish that was supposed to have a spice mix added), but my home attempts were well-received. I made gingerbread cookies, Dan’s favorite, and some rolled cookies with chocolate and plain sugar cookie dough. I’d actually meant to make those last weekend, but I forgot about the dough while it was chilling in the freezer.
Apparently I didn't take pictures of my cookie masterpieces?!
I also went to Harpoon Brewery's Octoberfest.
I also made my first successful Alfredo sauce. Just about every other time I’ve made it, I’ve ended up with a thin, weak, garlic-flavored milk sauce… but not this time! I’m not sure what I did better this time (maybe follow the recipe?), but it wasn’t too bad. I boiled up some pasta and chicken pieces, and then threw in some farm broccoli in the last minute or so of cooking, and boom. Broccoli chicken Alfredo.
Again, no pictures. I don't know what's wrong with me.

It’s a little weird to go to the farm when it’s nearly dark – and it was strangely empty last night. Maybe everyone would rather go during the daylight hours. We had a few yummy surprises this week to shake things up. We got the usual potatoes, lettuce, broccoli, carrots, and peppers. I was thrilled to find fennel – YUM – and we also got a cabbage for our friend. There were also some sweet potatoes available, so we grabbed some of those as well. Perfectly timed, too, since I just saw a recipe for sweet potato gnocchi the other day. Weekend project!
Sweet potatoes... I'm going to make pasta (ish) out of you!

Lovely peppers on top of the fennel fronds.

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo (sauce adapted from AllRecipes)
This fed four of us with leftovers, but I would have liked some more broccoli and chicken. And more sauce; this wasn't quite enough to give a nice thick coating.

2 chicken breasts, cut into ¾” or 1” pieces
1 lb pasta (I used mini wheels since that's what we had)
2-3 small heads broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces (stems optional, but peel them before cutting into pieces if you use them)

3 T butter
3 T flour
2 c milk
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or mashed
½ - ¾ c Parmesan cheese, grated (I used the Romano we have in the fridge)
Salt and pepper to taste
Grate or two of nutmeg (optional)

Put a big pot of water on the stove to boil. Once boiling, add the chicken and cook for a minute or two. Add the pasta and stir to keep everything from sticking. (Add a drizzle of olive oil if you want.) When the pasta is almost done, add the broccoli to the pot. Drain and return everything to the hot pan, off the heat.

For the sauce:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then slowly whisk in the flour. Whisk over medium heat to make a roux. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened. Mine took about 8 minutes, I think. Add the cheese and keep whisking until the sauce is the right consistency for you. Taste, and if the sauce is bland, add salt until it tastes like cheese. (And/or add more cheese!) Pour the sauce over everything in the pasta pot and stir to combine.

Serve with additional cheese on the side.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Week Seventeen: Early Nights

I can’t believe it’s October already! I’m still bummed that the nights are coming faster, but I’m loving the extended summer weather we've been having. I had to go into Boston yesterday morning and ended up walking a little over 2 miles around the city in what was probably the perfect “walking” weather: not too cold in the shadows but not too hot in the sunlight. (I’m only a little sore today.)
Cruising down Route 2 this weekend.
For the first time in ages, we didn’t walk around the picking fields – so hopefully we didn’t miss anything good! We’ve had decent luck with the raspberries, as I’ve said before, by just strolling through and snacking on what looks good. The harvest is starting to get smaller, but I’m looking forward to some yummy fall squash soon! You can probably guess what we picked up this week – we’re creatures of habit, I guess: tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, peppers (red bell and sweet frying), leeks, and broccoli rabe (new!).

It’s been a busy week so I tried to focus on “easy” veg – last night was my big cooking night. I made “Shallot Surprise” and sautéed the broccoli rabe for a side. This weekend I need to find a way to use up all of my potatoes (about 3 or 4 pounds)… maybe gnocchi? I’ve got lots of extra scallions, too, so will need to do something with those. Yikes!

“Shallot Surprise” (a riff on Rachael Ray’s “That’s Shallotta Flavor Pasta”)

~1 lb shallots
1 lb pasta
Olive oil
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c Romano cheese (grated)

Peel and slice the shallots. (I hate this part – my eyes water like crazy! I have to do this right next to the stove with the exhaust fan on high, but that doesn’t always help very much. I’m told you can also do this with your gas stove on very low heat, to burn off the sulfur fumes.) Heat a couple tablespoons each of butter and olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic to the pan and sauté til it’s fragrant, then add the shallots.
I was too weepy slicing these to get a picture!
Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the shallots start to caramelize. Meanwhile, cook pasta per the directions on the box. When almost done cooking, add about a cup or so of the water to the skillet (it will sizzle) and add the cheese. Add the drained pasta and carefully toss to coat with the cheese and shallots. Add more cheese and/or water as needed to evenly coat pasta with the sauce.

Serve hot with additional cheese and freshly ground pepper.

Sautéed Broccoli Rabe (based on Rachael Ray's)

1 lb broccoli rabe, stems trimmed
1-2 T cooking oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice and zest of one lemon

Bring about an inch of water to boil in a large, deep skillet. Coarsely shop the broccoli rabe, then add to the boiling water and reduce heat to simmer. Salt the water, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Drain the rabe really well, then put the pan back on the stove. Add the oil, garlic, and some of the zest and cook over medium heat for a minute or two, then add the drained rabe to the pan. Sauté a couple more minutes, and transfer to serving dish. Toss with lemon juice and remaining zest to serve.