Friday, July 23, 2010

CSA 12: Vegetable Torte

I keep complaining about zucchini to anyone who will listen and apparently some people really do listen.  As a result I’ve got people sending me recipe ideas, like this essay on vegetable tortes from the NY Times that my step mother sent me the other day.  Plus it seemed as though I was fated to make this - just last weekend I bought myself a mandolin that I was eager to put to use.
As indicated in the piece it’s a loose recipe so I adjusted for what I had on hand and for my tastes.
I used my contact grill to grill up the veggies and put 2 layers of cheese in the tortes as glue… and flavor because I like cheese.  And omitted the breadcrumbs for two reasons: 1) (and this is the main reason) I didn’t have any and 2) because I made inverted tortes – which is to say the top while baking was to be the bottom when eating.
I say “tortes” because instead of one big torte I made 4 individual ones – it just works better for my lifestyle.  But certainly this recipe could be made into one big dish instead of 4 small ones.
I also forgot to add any herbs as the essay insists on.  I meant to use some basil but I forgot.  Heck I meant to put any sort of green leafy veggie in there since I’ve got plenty, but I forgot.  But you know what?  These farm fresh organic vegetables really are more flavorful then the average store bought stuff and the lack of herbs in no way diminished from the final product.
The torte itself was not only lovely to look at but super tasty.  So tasty in fact the night I made them, I ate 2.  But not only is it delicious just as is, the next day, I took one, cut it into thirds and used it as empanada filling, which was also excellent.  I bet it would make a great sandwich as well.  This is surely to become a staple recipe in my life.  Oh and ignore that line in the Times piece about this not being an easy recipe.  Yes its time consuming to grill all the veggies, assemble, then bake, but its not at all difficult – other then using the mandolin I’d feel confident to let a small child make this, its just ridiculously simple.
Vegetable tortes
½ large zucchini, sliced into uniform disks
1 medium yellow squash, sliced into uniform disks
1 red onion, sliced and left in disks
3 roasted red peppers, cut into pieces that will work in your baking dish
1/3 cup shredded cheese (I used Asiago and reggiano)
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
Preheat over to 375.  Toss the zucchini and squash in a few spoonfuls of oil – you don’t need much just a slight coating. Grill until soft and they have those lovely grill lines on them.  Lightly spray (or brush) the onion with oil and grill that, keeping the disks intact.
Spray 4 small-medium ramekins with olive oil and start assembling.  Layer squash, zucchini, onion, and peppers with some cheese sprinkled in here and there as glue.  Sprinkle in some salt & pepper every few layers too.  As you are going, really press the layers down to make it compact.  Continue until you’ve used up all your ingredients.  Bake for about 30 minutes.  Invert the ramekin on a plate and the torte should fall right out.  Enjoy.

CSA 11: Salad dressing

I make the best salad dressing.  No really.  Sounds a bit conceited I know, but I really do.  It’s more of a salvation then anything.  See – I really dislike lettuce.  But I know salad is good for me (health-wise and weight-wise) plus except for one week, so far I’ve gotten lettuce in every CSA share so far.  Plus let’s face it, salad is an easy thing to bring for lunch.  But everyday it’s boring and if you dislike lettuce, everyday is borderline torture… unless you have great dressing. 

The first key to great dressing is flavorful liquids.  I’ve noticed a lot of people will make dressing with only two liquids: oil and vinegar - and only one is particularly flavorful.  While oil and vinegar are an acceptable dressing, lets face it, its not “great dressing” (even if you use the very best oil and the very best vinegar, its still just oil & vinegar) and quite honestly it’s not all that healthful or affordable.

So before I get into dressing let me first discuss one of my favorite key ingredients – to dressing but also to almost all savory recipes that call for liquid.  Homemade vegetable broth.  It’s the easiest thing you can make and it’s essentially free (you can make it from garbage!) and it adds not only flavor to foods but also a big dose of nutrients.

Now you can go out and buy (or even grow) a bunch of whole vegetables, roughly chop them, simmer them and make vegetable broth.  But that’s not really the most cost effective method.  Instead try this: Get a medium-large storage container (the one I use is 1.5 quarts) and make space for it in a convenient space in your freezer.  Now every time you cook or prepare vegetables dump all your scraps in it – pepper guts, tomato stems and seed goo, outer layers of onions, garlic papers, the stems of your fresh herbs and your greens, carrot ends, etc.  You can also add your not so fresh veggies vegetables – you know that carrot that’s gone rubbery but isn’t moldy, the sprouted garlic or the wilted greens.  And you can add fruit too – apple cores, lemons you’ve already zested and squeezed, etc. Keep the bin in the freezer slowly adding to it each time you use vegetables.  Once it’s full dump the frozen vegetable scrap lump into a large pot and fill with water.  I usually add a bay leaf too.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and let simmer for about half an hour (less for weaker broth, longer for stronger).  Strain out the solids and voila you have vegetable broth.  I separate the broth into 1 cup and 2 cup storage containers and freeze them so I can just pull as much broth as I need when I need it.  I always have at least one defrosted in the fridge for easy access. 

Use this broth when you cook rice, quinoa, lentils, bulgur or any other savory grain to impart some flavor and nutrients.  Use this broth whenever a recipe calls for water or chicken broth. Use it as a base for soups, stews and roasts.  And use this broth to make great salad dressing.

Now my basic herb dressing calls for a 1-1-2-2 part recipe.  Which is to say 1 part vinegar, 1 part oil, 2 parts broth and 2 parts fresh herbs – make your “parts” as large or small as you want depending how much dressing you need; I generally do about ¼ cup parts.  I like to make it in the food processor to really get the herbs finely chopped and the get the liquids to blend.  You just put everything except the oil in the food processor (along with some salt and pepper) start it going and then drizzle in the oil.  You’ll probably need to stop at least once to scrape down the sides.  And there you go. Great herb dressing (try it as a marinade too).  And because you loaded it with broth its lower in fat then a straight oil & vinegar dressing, plus its higher in nutrients, and because its broth not water, you don’t sacrifice any flavor.

You can use any herbs, even dried ones (if you use dried herbs, knock it down to 1 part instead of two).  Basil, dill, thyme, cilantro, scallion, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary – any combination of whatever you have on hand.  I’ve also used onion and fennel in my dressings when it’s handy.  And after my cousin sent me a blog about kale, since I had tons of kale I’ve started adding a leaf or two of kale to the mix which makes for a very very green dressing and undoubtedly improves the healthfulness but doesn’t seem to affect the flavor much.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

CSA 10: Pesto Squash

Sometimes you just want a big plate of pasta.  And cheese.  I mean who doesn't love a big plate of cheesy pasta?  But neither pasta, nor cheese uses up my vegetables... So I made squash and pasta with pesto sauce.

I got one yellow squash amongst all my zucchinis last week and figured this would be the perfect dish for it.  I cut it into sticks the same approximate size as my pasta.  And pesto is a classic way to use up all that basil, and with almonds and cheese (and high protein multigrain pasta) its a very balanced dish.

The pesto came out to several servings, but I ate all of the squash with my pasta.  Since I actually do measure out a proper serving of pasta each time, it made for a big plate of food, but not really an outragous serving size.

The first hing I did was set the water boiling for the pasta, then I cut the squash and got that going, added the pasta to the water, then made the pesto, and the timing worked out perfectly with everything done at once.

about 1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 scallions
small handful almonds
2 oz Asiago cheese
salt & pepper
Olive oil

Put everything in a food processor except the oil.  Turn it on and slowly drizzle in oil until its a smooth consistency, occasionally stopping to scrape down the sides.

1 squash cut into sticks
olive oil, butter

Melt a small pat of butter into a small amount of olive oil over medium heat.  Add squash, sprinkle with Adobo and mix well to coat each piece of squash.  Cook about 10 minutes stirring occasionally, until squash is softened and lightly golden.

Mix 1 serving of cooked pasta, the squash and 1/3 of the pesto.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

CSA 9: Basil Zucchini Soup

Five more zucchini. Plus lots of other goodies: corn, chard, basil, scallion, kale, lettuce, and broccoli.  But really?  More zucchini?

So I made soup.  Even though its July.  Its tasty hot, but it also works really well as a cold soup.

Its really, really basil-y.  And its that really big leaf, super peppery kind of basil.  Which isn't how I'm used to basil and I didn't really think about how strong a flavor it has.  The zucchini really only gives it texture, the soup just tastes like basil.  The garlic, scallions, shallots and of course pepper mixes with the pepperiness of the basil to give it bite. I'm so tired of the taste of zucchini, this is a great way to completely hide it.

Basil Zucchini Soup
2 zucchini
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 scallion
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 cups fresh basil leaves
olive oil & butter
salt & pepper
adobo powder, dried shallots

Melt the butter in the oil over a low heat and add the garlic.  After about 2 minutes add the scallions.  While they soften up, chop the zucchini into large chunks.  Add them to the garlic and scallion and stir to really well coat the zucchini.  Season with adodo and pepper. Cover and let cook about 10 minutes over low heat. Add the water and broth, and dried shallots.  Cover and simmer about 10 minutes.
Put half the basil in the blender then add half the zucchini and broth, and blend until smooth. Continue blending in batches of basil and zucchini until its all smooth.

Monday, July 12, 2010

CSA 8: Cole Slaw

"Try some cole slaw - its organic!"

OK so maybe my friends were laughing at me, but I feel really good for having shared such a healthy salad with them. Everyone said they liked it, and certainly it was the first time some of them had ever had yellow carrot and/or kohlrabi.

So it wasn't completely organic, I did use Miracle Whip and other condiments, but all the veggies were from my farm share.  And at least Miracle Whip and vinegar is a pretty low fat dressing. As for the following recipe, I didn't measure the dressing ingredients, I just winged it. Heck its coleslaw, I winged the whole thing, its just easier to notice "1/2 a head of cabbage" versus a blob of MW. The recipe simply came about because I had Linda's BBQ to go to and I had cabbage and kohlrabi to use up. 

It took about 15 minutes total, super easy!

Cole Slaw
1/2 head of cabbage, shredded
small onion, shredded
1/2 kholrabi, shredded
2 small carrots, shredded

Miracle Whip
seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard powder
salt & pepper

Wisk the dressing together, and pour over the veggies and mix well.  Let sit at least 1 hour.

CSA 7: Zucchini Pancakes

So it started with greens, lots and lots of greens.  Lately its not so much the greens as it is the zucchini.  I mean I like zucchini but 10 zucchini in 2 weeks is really pushing the envelope.

I've sauteed zucchini, had zucchini and pasta, baked zucchini & carrot muffins, I've eaten raw zucchini (in salads, with humus).  But but by far the tastiest way to eat zucchini had been zucchini pancakes... Probably because they are full of cheese and cooked in butter - how could they not be awesome?

Zucchini Pancakes
2 zucchini, shredded
small onion, shredded
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used a mix of Asiago, mozzarella, cheddar, provolone & Parmesan)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon Adobo
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaten

Mix the veggies and the cheese, and in a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients.  Mix the flour mix with the vegetable mix until; well incorporated. Then mix in the egg.  Let sit for at least 20 minutes.  Heat some olive oil and butter in a large skillet.  Form patties out of the mix and cook in the pan, about 5-8 minutes per side.