30 August 2008

Avec Beaucoup Pommes d'Amour

Went to the farm stand and bought twenty-five pounds of "canning" tomatoes for eighteen dollars. Quite a bargain, I think, considering what their prettier siblings go for at the grocery store. I made sauce with them, of course, as last year's freezer sauce experiment was so successful. However, this year, I made the sauce in my slow cooker ...

Into my slow cooker, I threw diced onion and celery, shredded carrots, bay leaf, garlic, basil, oregano, black pepper, and parsley. Then I peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes until I could not fit any more in the slow cooker. Turned it on LOW and let everything cook for 10-ish hours. After 10-ish hours, if the sauce seemed too soupy, I stirred in a can of tomato paste and let the sauce cook for another hour or so with the lid off.

While two batches of this recipe yielded nine one-pound bags of rather delicious sauce I was still left with about half a box of tomatoes. What to do?

Why, make soup, of course!

I melted a knob of butter in my stockpot, threw in thinly sliced onion, carrots, and celery, and let it cook until the onion was light gold. Then I added eight large peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes, two leftover 5.5-ounce cans of low-sodium V8, and a carton of vegetable broth. Let it simmer for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally, until it all looked a bit like soup. Removed the lid, mashed the tomatoes up a bit, threw in a quarter of a box of pastina, dried parsley, and a couple shakes of McCormick Salt Free Garlic & Herb Seasoning. Reduced the pot to low, put the lid back on, and pretty much forgot it for forty minutes. Came back to delicious soup.

Happily, this recipe yielded eighty-two ounces of really scrumptious tomato vegetable soup. So scrumptious, in fact, that it may not be around long enough to freeze. It's wonderful for lunch or supper, of course, but also makes a fine snack or, yes, breakfast. I me some soup for breakfast.

Yet still tomatoes remained ...

What next?

A casserole!

I made "Mexican Chicken with Vegetables" from Maryana Vollstedt's The Big Book of Casseroles (Chronicle Books, 2000). If you can't be bothered going to the library, the recipe is available through Google Book Search (limited view only, so not embeddable here). I was pretty pleased with the recipe, but would skip browning the chicken and use skinless pieces next time as cooking the chicken with the vegetables in a covered pan robbed the chicken skin of its crispiness. Otherwise, this was a tasty dish and well worth repeating.

All this still leaves me with tomatoes, but only a normal "sandwiches and salad" amount I can cope with. BLT time, methinks.

Mmm ... bacon.

28 August 2008

Ships Go Baa

Last weekend, we went to the Terryville Country Fair and saw the ships and coo-beasties.
Ships: Wooly things that eat grass and go baa. Easily confused with the other kind. (See Terry Pratchett’s A Hat Full of Sky)
I’m sorry, but I am incapable of seeing a sheep without lapsing into Feegle.

Weirdly, seeing a cow does not make me think "Where's my cow?"

Oh. Now it does.

(The official Terry Pratchett website features a game called Feegle Free-Fall. Six-inch-tall Feegles droppin' oot of trees head-first onto the big jobs. What fun).

24 August 2008

Jolly, Sugary, Tumbling Tom

As we know, I’ve been hitting the farm stands pretty hard (for me, anyway). My problem with farm stands is similar to my problem with book stores, libraries, and quilt shops … the bits of my brain given over to thrift and common sense are completely overwhelmed by the more greedy and distractable bits. Oo! Squash! Oo! Tomatoes! Oo! Corn! Oo! Beans! Peppers! Peaches! They all seem like a good idea … until I get them home and start to fret that I’ve just bought what amounts to expensive compost.

Happily, cookbooks to the rescue! My library has a number of very nice vegetable-oriented cookbooks in its collection. Three I am most familiar with are Andrea Chesmans’ The Garden-Fresh Vegetable Cookbook (Storey Publishing, 2005), Victoria Wise’s The Gardeners' Community Cookbook (Workman Publishing, 1999), and Jack Bishop’s Vegetables Every Day (William Morrow, 2001). I have made several recipes from each and only been disappointed once.

I think my favorite recipe so far is from The Garden-Fresh Vegetable Cookbook for “Baked Tomatoes with Goat Cheese.” It’s a very simple (and pretty) recipe -- halved cherry tomatoes drizzle with a little olive oil and then roasted with fresh basil, goat cheese, and fresh bread crumbs (omitted) -- but the results are so yummy I could haven eaten the dish all on its own. Even The Husband, who has long insisted that cooked tomatoes are inedible tomatoes, nommed his portion up. These tomatoes would, I dare say, be delicious spooned onto slices of crusty baguette and eaten like bruschetta.

Just writing about this recipe makes me salivate! It was double nom with knobs on, I kid you not.

Less delicious, alas, was the recipe from The Gardner’s Community Cookbook for “Summer Squash Baked with Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, and Fresh Thyme.” This was, of all the recipes I’ve tried, my only disappointment. Perhaps, it was because I made this recipe so soon after my delicious experience with “Baked Tomatoes with Goat Cheese?” Or, perhaps, it was because I omitted the olives? Regardless, this dish was merely eh. No only do I have no desire to make it again, but I actually threw the leftovers away.

19 August 2008

Squish Squash ... Squee

We stopped at a local farm stand this weekend and loaded up on corn, squash, peaches, and plums. Add in the apples we bought at Lyman Orchards and our kitchen is fairly overflowing with seasonal bounty. While I've made that delicious slow cooker apple sauce from some of the apples, I'm a bit at a loss when it comes to the squash.

Oh, on Sunday I tweaked my chicken & squash recipe to accommodate bone-in thighs ...
Season chicken thighs with McCormick Salt Free Garlic & Herb Seasoning and place chicken, skin side down, on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes. Turn chicken skin side up. Add sliced yellow squash, halved cherry tomatoes, and red onion wedges to pan. Bake about 10 minutes more or until the chicken is cooked through.
... and that was pretty tasty, but we've been eating variations on this dish pretty much every week for a month now. It's good, but too familiar. Anyway, no matter how good the chicken and squash were, the corn was bound to outshine them.

Oh, the corn stole the show! We could have eaten nothing but corn on the cob for dinner and considered ourselves well fed indeed. Apparently, the farm stand didn't call it "kandy korn" for nothing. It was sweet and tender and additively delicious. So long, Silver Queen. Goodbye, Bread & Butter. I have found crack corn ...

But back to the squash:

Rummaging around in my cookbooks, I found a recipe¹ in Better Homes & Gardens Crockery Cooking (Meredith Books, 2001) for "Vegetable-Barley Medley." This recipe seemed written just for me -- black beans, corn, onion, pearl barley, sweet/bell pepper, carrot, garlic, parsley, basil, yellow squash (sub. for zucchini), tomatoes, vegetable broth? All the ingredients were already in my kitchn. What wasn't to like? And everything could be forgotten in the slow cooker? It was like a delicious miracle waiting to happen.

Vegetable-Barley Medley

And the dish was even better than I'd hoped. Nutty, chewy, sweet, and fragrant ... I suspect we will be eating a lot of it. Especially as the ingredient list incorporates so much in-season produce (corn, tomatoes, squash, peppers, basil, and parsely).

¹ This recipe was also published in Better Homes & Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes (Meredith Books, 2002) or (if you have a liberal attitude toward fair use and copyright) you can find the recipe all over the internets.

16 August 2008

How Do You Like Them Apples?

Took this Friday off to spend the day with The Husband and celebrate our 3² anniversary. While we'd meant to visit the New Britain Museum of American Art's new contemporary glass exhibit, we ended up at Lyman Orchards in Middlefield. I think it had something to do with cheese ... Museum does not have cheese. Lyman Orchards does have cheese. And pies. And pickles. Oh, and fruit. Lots of fruit.

We were too lazy to bother picking our own peaches or apples, but did watch the geese (yes, we are boring) and wander through the sunflower maze. Oh, the sunflower maze! I thought it would be romantic -- wandering through the sunflowers and canoodling with The Husband. Hah. Foolishly, I had "forgotten" that he is a geek and that a geek, when faced with a puzzle, is incapable of doing anything but finding the solution to that puzzle. Because The Husband did not take the map offered at the ticket booth, it took us about forty minutes to get out of the maze.

But, it was a beautiful maze planted with a splendid variety of sunflowers and so big that, but for distant screams proving otherwise, we could have been the only people in the maze. Oh, and there were bees everywhere! This made me so happy as I keep hearing about Colony Collapse Disorder and honey bee die-off and, as no pollinators = no food, many bees = a good thing.

After we stumbled out of the maze and claimed our "survivor" badges we headed off to the farm stand where we bought pickles, apples, cream puffs, and frozen pot pies. No, no cheese. We will have to go back for cheese ...

I've made 6 5oz cups of slow cooker applesauce from some of the apples we bought and it's just as good as last year's batch even though I decreased the sugar to a scant ¼ cup:
Put six cups cored, peeled, and chunked apples in a slow cooker with ½ cup water, ¼ cup sugar, and cinnamon and ginger to taste. Cook on High three to five hours depending on how chunky you like it and then give the apples a good stir until the bigger chunks fall apart.

I still have a bunch of dried apple rings on hand and am thinking of trying to make applesauce from a combination of dried and fresh apples and, maybe, apple juice or cider in place of the water.

12 August 2008

Instructions Are Merely Guidelines

Recipes I've made recently, but forgotten to tell you about:

Tortellini Salad

Adapted from the recipe in Jan Mann's Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket (Hillside House Publishing, 2006) -- cheese tortellini tossed with quartered cherry tomatoes, chopped parsley, minced onion, fat free Greek yoghurt, light mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, freshly shredded Romano, and fresh ground pepper. I've made this salad a bunch of times now and have always been please with the results. It's quite easy to make and keeps well in the fridge -- two summer musts. You could make this the way Mann wrote it with sour cream and plum tomatoes, but I use fat free Greek yoghurt and cherry tomatoes because those are always on hand in my kitchen. Also, Mann is quite correct when she says that freshly shredded Romano is a must. While the salad comes out okay with the pre-shredded stuff, it is exponentially better with fresh.

Chicken & Bulgur Supper

Based on a recipe I found in an old Land O'Lakes Recipe Collection magazine, Healthy Eating with Pasta, Beans, & Grains -- bulgur cooked in vegetable broth with mushrooms, dill, thyme, peas & pearl onions frozen vegetable blend, and cracked pepper. The recipe doesn't actually call for vegetable broth, but rather for a mixture of water and instant chicken bouillon granules. I always have wax cartons of vegetable broth on hand so that is what I used. I think the broth gave the dish a better flavor. The cooking time and liquid amounts were way off -- in the end, I threw the bulgur/veggie mix in the microwave and nuked it for six minutes with 1½ more cups of vegetable broth (stirring and tasting every 2 minutes) while I started the chicken (season boneless skinless breasts with salt & pepper and sauté in butter until cooked through). The bulgur came out of the microwave a little soupy, but I let the dish sit while the chicken finished cooking and the extra liquid was absorbed by the time we sat down to eat. It's possible the recipe used more finely ground bulgur than what I had on hand and that explains away the disparity in cooking times, but it doesn't really matter as the results were extraordinarily yummy and well worth the extra fuss. So yummy, that I am now tempted to work out a variation more suitable for breakfast. Something with blueberries, I think. Yum!

09 August 2008

Cookery Catch-Up, Picnic Edition

We had my parents up for a little picnic last weekend. We played croquet and ate cheeseburgers with:

Marinated Cucumbers & Red Onion
Halve 1 English/burpless cucumber and scoop the seeds out with a spoon. Thinly slice & put in a colander with salt. Let sit for 20 minutes or so. Rinse cukes and squeeze in a tea towel to remove as much moisture as possible. Put in bowl with minced red onion, dill weed, a splash of white vinegar, a few twists of pepper, and a tiny bit of sugar.

Cucumber & Red Onion Salad

Used-to-Was-Mom’s Potato Salad
While still warm (but not hot) toss 1 ½ pounds unpeeled whole tiny gold/yellow potatoes with dried parsley, chopped hard cooked egg and dressing made from light mayonnaise mixed with low fat milk and McCormick Salt Free Garlic & Herb Seasoning. (This is a complete bastardization of my mother's recipe).

Mom’s Pickled Beets
In a bowl, layer two undrained cans low sodium sliced beets and one thinly sliced onion (white or red depending on preference or availability). Pour in 1 cup white vinegar. Refrigerate overnight. The longer this sits, the better it is.

Croquet score? Visitors: 2 | Home: 0

I also managed to make dinner once this week ...

Roasted Chicken Thighs & Summer Vegetables

Place boneless skinless chicked thighs in a lubricated baking dish with chunked pattypan squash, red onion, and quartered ping pong ball-sized tomatoes. Sprinkle liberally with McCormick Salt Free Garlic & Herb Seasoning. Spray with a little cooking spray. Roast until chicken is cooked through and squash is tender. Served with brown rice and green salad.

01 August 2008

Cookery Catch-Up (Really, I Cooked)

Things I've cooked in the past few weeks ...
Roasted salmon & summer vegetables
Place skinned salmon fillet in a lightly lubricated baking dish with chunked yellow (crookneck) squash, red onion, and whole grape tomatoes. Drizzle with a garlicky Italian dressing. Roast until salmon is cooked to taste and squash is tender, but not squishy (squishy squash is just so wrong).
Served with rice pilaf and green salad.
Grilled ahi tuna
Brush tuna steaks with a little oil and grill 4 minutes or so on each side (we like ours somewhere between rare and very rare – bright pink with a nice line of red).
Squeezed a bit of lime over the steaks and served with green salad and my latest take on my mother's potato salad recipe.
Baked sea scallops
Rinse & pat dry scallops. Place in lightly lubricated baking dish. Splash a little white wine (whatever you’re drinking) over the scallops. Sprinkle with chopped garlic and dried parsley. Dot with butter and sprinkle with panko. Bake until the scallops are firm and just cooked through (chewy = evil).
Served with leftover potato salad and steamed green beans.
Peanut Butter & Banana Cake
From Jill Snider’s Cake Mix Magic 2: 125 More Easy Desserts ... Good as Homemade (Robert Rose, 2003). Made to use up three bananas that were just this side of mush. White cake mix combined with eggs, oil, banana flavored pudding mix, and mashed bananas. A layer of peanut butter chips and brown sugar was supposed to run through the middle, but sank right to the bottom. Not a bad cake, but not as banana-y as I had expected. Brought to work and fed to co-workers who seemed to like it more than I did. But you know what they say about librarians and free sweets …
Porkchops with Mushroom Bourbon Cream Sauce
From Simply Recipes with some moderate tweaking:
  • dried basil instead of fresh
  • Jack Daniels instead of bourbon (all bourbon is whisky, but not all whisky is bourbon)
  • 1 cup fresh bagel crumbs instead of 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup of Schmitt Söhne Blue Riesling QBA (2005) instead of a dry white
This recipe is definitely a keeper. The chops were excellent and the pan sauce was to die for. Oh my god, was that a good sauce! Must try it on steak!

Bourbon Mustard Chicken
From Recipezaar (looks a lot like a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated’s America’s Best Recipe, 1989) with some substitutions:
  • spicy brown mustard for the Dijon
  • 1 diced shallot for the green onions
  • Jack Daniels for the bourbon
The chicken came out very well, but we weren’t keen on the sauce -- too sweet. Next time, while I would still marinate the chicken, I wouldn’t bother making the pan sauce from the leftover marinade.
Much salad:
Olivia’s Herb Salad blend with chopped carrots, cucumbers, red onion, blueberries, diced cooked beets and crumbled feta. Olivia’s Herb Salad blend with chopped red onion, cucumbers, carrots, baby radishes, red cabbage, diced cooked beets, and tuna. Olivia’s Herb Salad blend with chopped carrots, cucumbers, and red onion, diced cooked beets, parma ham, and crumbled feta. &etc.