Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Soup Belly

Earlier this week I made a very satisfying soup from the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook: Spanish Bean Soup. It was the first real day of fall weather in Portland, so a comforting bowl of soup and warm-from-the-oven bread sounded like the perfect dinner.

This meal was a great use of Persephone Farm's produce. It called for collard greens, garlic, onion, celery and potatoes. I did modify the recipe a little. It originally asked for soy sausage, but I used a mild Italian turkey sausage instead and decreased the amount slightly. Spicy Italian sausage would be equally good.

I had the soup for lunch the past couple of days and have not grown tired of it. The flavors married and intensified — and it tasted even better as a leftover. Another winner from our Moosewood cookbook!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday Best

This Sunday, Trevor woke up ready to eat. He looked through our fridge, some cookbooks, and decided on his plan of action: Huevos Rancheros. He figured he might as well fry up the last couple of pieces of bacon, too. And he’d just picked up potatoes from the Persephone farm stand at the PSU Farmers’ Market, so why not toss them in some hot bacon grease?

The result was one cheesy, crispy, flavorful breakfast that we’ll be making again and again. He used the recipe from our Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook. It's basically a toasted tortilla topped with a poached egg, salsa and cheese.

We’ll be cooking several recipes from Moosewood this week. Each recipe in the book calls for an abundance of fresh vegetables. So it’s really perfect for our situation — trying to build meals from the free vegetables we get from Persephone Farm each week Trevor works at the stand. Most of the recipes are really delicious vegetarian dishes with influences from around the globe. Although, sometimes, we do make Moosewood recipes and say “Wouldn’t this be really great with some ham?”

Friday, September 25, 2009

Local Doesn't Just Mean Lettuce

One of the best things about the Saturday Farmers’ Market at Portland State is the sausage sandwich by Salumeria di Carlo. You can smell the spicy and sweet sausages cooking the minute you hit the market. Topped with your choice of spicy or regular mustard and in a soft bakery bun, these sandwiches by the Dundee, Ore. sausage makers are hard to resist. And better yet, you can buy frozen packs to take home.

So when I saw this recipe on the Rachael Ray show last year, I immediately thought of Salumeria di Carlo sausage and Persephone Farm fennel. Fennel seed is a common flavoring for Italian sausage, so I knew fresh fennel had to make a sausage sandwich out of this world. I warn you — it has dumb name — but it blows away the normal onion, bell pepper and sausage combo. Here’s the link to Hot Diggity Dogs.

We were able to use fennel, red onion, parsley, and garlic from Persephone Farms in this recipe. This is a perfect kick-up-your-feet and have-a-beer-on-a-Friday-night kind of meal. We washed down our sandwiches with Green Lakes Organic Ale by Deschutes Brewery,  another local pick. You can round out this meal with oven fries or chips.

Contact info: Salumeria di Carlo, Dundee, Ore. 971-570-3720

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Heaven in a Slow Cooker

After seeing an episode of Cook’s Country on PBS, Trevor got really excited about one of the recipes they demonstrated. And it was easy for me to see why. It contained flank steak, two kinds of Italian sausage and country-style short ribs. The sheer amount of meat had me baulking a little at the idea, so I said, “OK, you’ll have to make it, though.”
So this past Saturday at the Portland State Farmers’ Market, Trevor took home extra onions and garlic from the Persephone Farms stand where he works. The Cook’s Country recipe Sunday Italian Gravy called for plenty of both in addition to all that meat. He also got some radicchio, a slightly bitter, purple-leafed plant to broil and eat on the side.

The recipe itself was really easy. Brown up the sausage, onions and add them to a slow cooker, mix in all the ingredients. Then you let the Crock Pot do its thing. It started smelling like heaven about two hours into cooking. Four hours later we had this rich meat sauce which tasted as amazing as it smelled. The flank steak and ribs shredded at the slightest touch of a fork. I’m drooling a little just thinking of it now.

I've include a link to Cook’s Country. You do have to sign up to get access to the recipes. It’s free if you cancel before they start charging at 14 days. And this recipe is worth the extra work of registering. I've also included a link to the radicchio recipe we used.

Even though we halved the recipe, we’ll still get two dinners (for two) and two lunches from it. We ate it on warm baguette topped with Parmesan cheese last night. I think I liked it even better that way. It had the sauciness of meatball sub, tenderness of a pulled pork sandwich and spiciness of an Italian sausage sandwich. All in one sandwich.

This recipe would be great for a dinner party. All the work is done in advance, so you can hang out and have a drink with your guests when they arrive instead of furiously trying to finish cooking. It’d also be great for a casual Christmas dinner. You can start it after opening presents, lounge around all day, then eat this spectacular sauce with your family for dinner.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Zucchini Part Deux

I always get the late afternoon munchies. Instead of going for a tasty baked good, I looked through my fridge and found some zucchini. I remembered a delicious slaw I had recently had at a bakery in Corvallis, Ore., and decided to duplicate it. It took just a few minutes to make. My salad was fresh and satisfying. It’s a great way to use up all that zucchini that’s around this time of year.
I’ll be playing around with different variations of this salad and I hope you do, too. I’m especially excited about trying it with ricotta salata — a hard, salty version of creamy ricotta — and fresh mint. And maybe some roasted garlic. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Zucchini and Red Pepper Slaw
Use a food processor with a grater attachment to make quick work of the grating. Bottled, roast red bell peppers may be a little zesty, so you may need less vinegar. Adjust to your taste preference. Serves 2.
1 large zucchini, grated (2 cups total)
½ cup roasted red bell peppers (bottled or roasted at home), cut into ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/8 cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
Combine zucchini, red bell peppers, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl. Top with pine nuts and cheese. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cleaning Out the Cupboards

When I was making up my shopping list last week, I looked around the kitchen to see what I had on hand. I spotted some dry lentils and remembered a tasty recipe from Cooking Light— Bacon, Onion and Brown Lentil Skillet.
I’d never enjoyed lentils all that much until I made this recipe. And this is one of those recipes that may not sound all that appetizing, but once you smell the onions hitting the bacon grease, you know it’s going to be great.
In addition to the lentils, I also had some carrots, chicken broth, bacon and lots of fresh thyme. So I knew it’d be an economical meal that I could round out with produce from Persephone Farm. So we grabbed Persephone onions, garlic and parsley for this dish — and some Swiss chard and shallot to go on the side. I used some of the extra bacon grease to cook the chard in, too. Below is my variation of a recipe handed out at the Persephone stand.

Tasty Sautéed Greens
Feel free to use kale or collards instead of the Swiss chard. And you can use a combination of onion and garlic instead of shallot. Serves 2.
1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped and thoroughly washed
2 tablespoons bacon grease or olive oil
¼ cup shallot, sliced
salt to taste
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
a splash balsamic vinegar
Bring 1 cup water to boil in a 4-quart stockpot. Stir in chard, reduce heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Add grease or oil to large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and red pepper flakes, cook, stirring, until shallot is tender, about 4 minutes. Add greens to skillet and reserved cooking water. Add salt to taste, sauté about 10 minutes or until desired degree of softness. Finish with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Zucchini Overload

It was August when Trevor and I moved to Portland. The sun was shining in a way that made me doubt Portland could ever be cloudy and drizzly for a good eight months out of the year. And it was peak zucchini season. We walked by a bus bench on the way to explore our new neighborhood and noticed a plastic grocery bag sitting on the bench. When we returned home, the bag was still sitting there. Curiosity got the best of us and we opened it up to discover a bag full of gorgeous green zucchini. And a desperate note: Please take. So we did.

When we got home, I searched through my Cooking Light magazines for some recipes to use up the gift squash and found Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread. I thought, “Perfect!” It’s been a favorite ever since.
Summer squash season is still going strong at Persephone Farm, so we had a large selection this week. I grabbed a few extra to make this wonderful snack bread. I did “unlighten” it though. I didn’t have applesauce on hand so I increased the grated zucchini to 2 cups, upped the oil to 1/3 cup and added 3 tablespoons of light sour cream. I also swapped 1 cup of all-purpose flour for 1 cup of Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. It still was moist and delicious
I’ve still got more squash in my fridge, so later this week I’ll post my Zucchini Slaw recipe that I developed after tasting a wonderful salad at a bakery in Corvallis, Ore.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Beginning

I love food. And because of that, I became a locavore without even realizing there was a whole movement of people eating food straight from their communities – whether to reduce carbon emissions, keep money in the local economy or stay healthy. I just did it because the freshest food always tastes best to me, and you don’t get much fresher than something grown an hour away and picked the day before it’s brought to you. (Although stepping out to your patio and picking vegetables and herbs from your own little garden, is fresher, and we do that, too.)
Of course local, organic food can be a bit more costly than produce you can find in the grocery store. Luckily, my hardworking and equally food-loving husband was offered a job at the Portland Farmers’ Market. So he gets up at an ungodly hour for a Saturday and unloads a truck of veggies from Persephone Farm in Lebanon, Ore., and then sells them. So he makes some extra money, but the true payoff if that we can take home anything that’s still around right before the market closes.
So I’ve decided to document our attempt to work in as much produce from Persephone into our diets and thereby reduce our food expenses. I’ll post photos of meals, detail what ingredients are from Persephone Farms, tell which cookbooks we’ve used — or jot down the recipe if it’s one from our repertoire.
Summer Tomato Gazpacho
We used Persephone’s tomatoes, onion, cucumber, garlic and parsley, and basil from our garden. Serves 4.
5 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded (see note)
1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded
½ cup red onion
½ large red bell pepper
2 small cloves garlic
5 basil leaves
¼ cup parsley
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil
packaged croutons, optional

Note: To peel tomatoes, bring a large pot of water to boil. Slice an X into the bottom of the tomatoes. Have a large bowl of ice water nearby. Place tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until skin starts to peel off. Place tomatoes in ice water. Peel. Slice in half and scoop out seeds.
Place first seven ingredients (tomatoes through parsley) in the bowl of a food processor or blender. (This may need to be done in two batches.) Blend until smooth. Add balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and pulse a few more times. Divide among four bowls. Top with croutons and olive oil if desired. Enjoy!