Monday, July 21, 2014

Week Six: In A Pickle

Another great week at the farm. We got regular AND pickling (Kirby) cucumbers, onions, lettuce, beets, zucchini, carrots, and fennel. I still haven’t made it out to the self-pick field, but I know there’s some dill there, calling my name!

I made cupcakes with the beets (obviously) – I had been planning on making chocolate cupcakes (the beets were red), but I discovered that I’d gotten candy cane beets! They’re striped pink and white on the inside. Unfortunately they don’t retain their color when cooked, so after I pureed them for the batter it looked like a pile of pinkish-orange mush. Not particularly appetizing, but luckily, cocoa powder covers up a lot!
Surprise! We're stripey.
I’m planning to use the onion in fajitas tonight. I also made some pickles and pickled carrots, which are chilling in the fridge with some garlic getting all yummy.
We <3 vinegar and garlic!
Cute, isn't he?
Also on this week’s menu is the beet and potato hash that I made last season, topped with fried eggs. I’m going to try baking it in the oven instead of cooking it on the stovetop so I can avoid the hilarity that is “just slide the thing onto a plate, put another plate over top, flip, and slide back into the skillet to finish cooking”. Because anything that starts with “Just…” is never that easy. (Exhibit A)

I wasn’t over the moon about the fennel slaw I’d made a couple weeks ago, so I’m reevaluating what I want to do with my fennel. Maybe make it into a risotto again (I’ll use the whey left over from my homemade yogurt, cut with water or chicken stock to make it less sour). I did save a couple of chunks of the stalks for stock – hopefully it won’t be overwhelming once cooked! Google also tells me there are both roasted and lightly-fried options for fennel, which also sound good.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Week Five - Catching Up!

It’s been a busy couple weekends – our usual 4th of July celebrations got rained out, which was a bummer since the rest of the weekend was beautiful! Last weekend I was in Knoxville, TN with my family – what a drive! We passed a Wal-Mart distribution center that was at least a mile long (below), drove the long way through Virginia, and at really good food in downtown Market Square (think Faneuil Hall/Quincy market area without the market buildings in the center).
Allll those trucks are Wal-Mart branded.
This is about the longest direct route you can take through Virginia.
I-81 all the way, through the beautiful Appalachians.

We had a good harvest last week – Matt & Aly dropped off cucumbers, golden beets (you know what that means – cupcakes! Yay!), summer squash, and green and gold zucchini for us. I made some yummy fridge pickles – I can’t wait for my dill to get a little bigger so I can use it for extra flavor. I may also try spears, too. They take a little longer but I'm sure they're worth it!
Mmmm pickles
Easy Fridge Pickles
inspired by Smitten Kitchen
As I was re-reading the ingredients to list here, I noticed that I had accidentally doubled the vinegar and halved the cucumbers. I don't know if I mind, but that would explain how incredibly pickly and spicy they turned out... Her recipe uses 8-10 Kirby cukes and 1/2 cup of vinegar. My version is below.

4 small to medium cucumbers, washed and sliced thin (she recommends Kirby or pickling cucumbers)
1 cup white vinegar 
5 teaspoons salt (coarse, pickling, or kosher)
Optional tasty things:
  1 to 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  1 or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  1/2 teaspoon or so red pepper flakes
  freshly ground black pepper

Slice up the cucumbers super thin with a mandoline if you have one, or carefully on a cutting board. Put them in a large bowl with a leakproof lid, then add the salt, vinegar, and your choice of optional tasty additions. Close the lid and shake everything up. Chill in the fridge, shaking occasionally, until ready to eat (wait at least an hour - they'll supposedly last 3 weeks).
The fun part about using a mandoline is that the slices just stack up all on their own!

I roasted up the summer squash to have alongside some chicken. I did a quick marinade with olive oil, garlic, and salt & pepper, tossed the chicken and then the squash in that, and cooked everything at 400* for about 20 minutes. Delish! (Tip: preheat the baking sheet in the oven while you prep everything!)

And a quick garden update: We have pumpkins! No pictures yet, but there are at least three that are fist-sized or bigger and growing every day. The vines are reaching out to the radishes and broccoli, and will probably be at the driveway soon. My radishes went a little wild when I was gone, so I'm not sure if any are now too big to be tasty - some of them have flowered, so I need to clear those out and give everything else some space to breathe.

Another update soon!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Recipe: Sausage and Kale Pasta

Success! This got two thumbs up from Dan, which, as I've mentioned before, is really all I look for when I cook. I streamlined this a little bit and cut out a few things that I didn't have (and, uh, forgot to get at the grocery store) and subbed for things I did have. No pictures, but I promise it was good!

Sausage and Kale Pasta
adapted from Serious Eats
You might want to halve this if you don't have a large stockpot. I had hopes that everything would fit into this bad boy, but it was dangerously full (to the point that I couldn't stir anything) so I opted to dump everything back into the pasta pot. This would probably also be good with spinach.

1 pound fusilli or other short pasta (I used cavatappi)
1 large bunch kale, leaves chopped and stems discarded
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from skins and crumbled (I used Al Fresco sweet Italian-style chicken sausage)
1 clove garlic, minced
12-15 whole cherry tomatoes, such as Sungolds (forgot these!)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping (lots of this)

Remove the stems from the kale and clean the leaves. I cut the leaves into ribbons and then chopped across the long way to make smaller pieces, but I'll need to do more chopping next time to get the pieces a little smaller. Boil the kale in well-salted water until tender - I have no idea how long this "should" take. I'd guess I boiled mine maybe 5 minutes. If you have a stockpot with a colander insert, use that and keep the hot water for the pasta. Mine turned a weird greenish brown color because the kale had a purplish tinge to it.

Return the hot water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook to your preferred done-ness and reserve at least a cup of the cooking water. Drain if it finishes cooking before the sausage is ready (toss the water).

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the sausage. Break up with a wooden spoon and cook until completely browned. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and fennel seeds (if using) and continue to cook until sausage caramelizes and turns golden brown. Add more oil to the pan if needed. Put the kale in the pan and stir/toss to coat. Cook a couple of minutes, and if using cherry tomatoes, add them now and cook until they start to lose their shape. 

Scrape contents of skillet into your big pasta pot (my skillet wasn't big enough for all this goodness!) and add the pasta back to the pot. Stir everything together and add the cheese and enough pasta water to make a sauce. I loaded up on the cheese because it's delicious. 

Top with additional cheese for serving.