Friday, September 28, 2012

CSA Day Potato and Cabbage Soup

Tuesday is a day of transition for us. It's community supported agriculture (CSA) pickup day, which means a substantial influx of good, healthy vegetables. That's great, but it can be also daunting when there is still a good bit left from last week's pickup. We only have so much storage space, and don't want things going bad. So the goal here was to clear out the old veggies to make way for the new. I did use the fennel from this week's pickup, which added a nice flavor. In fact, I considered adding a bit of bacon to this, but I think it had plenty of taste with out it, thanks in part to the fennel I'd say. You could easily switch the chicken broth to vegetable or water, and make this a vegetarian option.

1 medium onion chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lg carrot, sliced
1 bulb fennel, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups chopped)
3 small potatoes, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups chopped)
2/3 tsp garlic powder
4 cups cabbage
1 bay leaf
1 cup chicken broth
4 cups water
dash of salt
pepper to taste
grated cheese for topping (optional)

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion, saute over medium heat until it begins to soften. Stir in the following, one at a time, as you have them ready: carrot, fennel, potato and then cabbage. Add the garlic powder and a dash of salt.  Add the chicken broth and water along with the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer (around a medium low setting). Simmer until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Will take about 30 minutes. The potatoes will be the slowest, so that is what to check for tenderness.

When the vegetables are done, puree with a handheld blender or a food processor, until you get to the desired consistency. I like to leave a few chunks of vegetable for texture, but that's just me. Add pepper to taste, and serve with grated cheddar cheese at the table.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Penne with Arugula, Garlic & Beans: Post for #macgrillgive

Wow! This was an email pitch I need to respond to! Romano's Macaroni Grill is working on a "One Million Meals" Campaign in partnership with the No Kid Hungry Campaign coordinated by Share our Strength. When I heard they'd donate $50 to this campaign for each blogger that shares a favorite Italian recipe as part of the campaign, I had to jump in. It's very troubling that 1 in 5 children in America face hunger issues. Now that need is troubling, but the good news is that people are working hard to address the problem. I've had the honor of meeting and hearing from Share Our Strength founder Bill Shore, and I know his group will put the money to good use. OK, please check out the campaign link to learn about ways you can on to that recipe!

***re-share of recipe previously published here follows:
Arugula is a great thing to have on hand. It's got a nice peppery flavor, and is good raw or cooked in a number of different ways. Tonight I planned to use it in an Italian bread soup, but alas, realized I'd forgotten the crusty bread I needed. Not to fear, the arugula was quickly redeployed in this main dish pasta.

4 ozs arugula (I used baby arugula)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup feta cheese (you could also use pecorino romano)
12 ozs penne or other short pasta
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine
1 15 oz can red kidney beans (white would work too), drained and rinsed
1/4 cup red bell pepper (I used roasted)
handful of chopped olives (optional)
dash of red pepper flakes, salt to taste

Begin cooking the pasta according to package instructions. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium, then add garlic (if using raw red bell pepper, add it now too). Saute for about a minute, stir in half the arugula with another tbsp of olive oil. Let it start cooking down, 2 minutes or so, then add the rest of the arugula and the wine. Add the beans, roasted red bell pepper, salt and red pepper flakes. Just needs another two minutes or so, then set aside to toss with pasta when it's ready. When the pasta is cooked, drain and combine with the arugula mixture. Add the cheese and the extra tbsp of olive oil, and the olives if using. Serve and enjoy!

Wine Pairing: I served it with a Nebbiolo and that worked--a flavorful, medium bodied wine that match the arugula well. A white would certainly work here--I would go for a medium bodied Italian white. We just had a Lugana the other night--a white made from Trebbiano--that would fit the bill, but there's a lot to choose from in this department.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mac & Cheese with Bacon & Greens

The greens keep rolling in through our CSA, pushing me to come up with more ways to prepare them. There was quite the discussion on the Cooking Chat Facebook Page trying to help me identify one bunch of mystery greens. I think in the end Vinnie may have been right, that I had a bunch of larger than usual arugula on hand, because it did have the peppery flavor profile--but a bit different than what I'm used to. Perhaps a different variety? What I know for sure is that, in addition to the mystery greens, I had a bunch of white salad turnip greens--I cut the greens off the turnip myself. Greens make a nice side dish, but with two bunches I thought I could feature them an entree. A few people on Facebook reminded me of how bacon flavors greens nicely. I also had some cheddar on hand, so I was ready to go! One tip on the greens--you could try this with many different greens, but focus on ones that can just be sauteed as opposed to require boiling or braising, such as kale.

1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 or 2 strips of bacon (I used 1 but think 2 might be better!)
2 different bunches of greens, such as arugula, turnip, or mustard
12 ozs short pasta
1 cup cheddar, shredded
2 tbsp olive oil

Heat a large skillet to medium high, and cook the bacon until good and crispy. Set the bacon aside to cool on a paper towel, and drain the excess bacon fat. Wipe out the pan a bit, but leave a bit of the bacon "juice" in the pan for flavor. When the bacon is cool, chop or crumble it into small pieces.

Lower heat to medium under the same skillet you used for the bacon. Add a tbsp of olive oil, then add the onions and saute. Meanwhile start cooking the pasta according to package  instructions. After the onion is nicely softened, add the garlic. After about one minute, gradually add the greens to the pan along with a bit more olive oil if it seems to need moisture. You often need to let a batch start cooking down a bit before adding the next bunch. The greens take about 5 minutes to cook down. You want them all wilted, but not overcooked, to retain flavor and nutritional value.

Drain the pasta, toss with the greens and bacon, then stir in about 3/4 cup of the cheese. Serve with the remaining cheese at the table. A medium to full bodied white wine might be the most obvious choice...but I made this on International Grenache Day, so we enjoyed it with a nice Spanish Garnacha--the 2010 Legado Munoz Garnacha, a great value around $10. Good depth of flavor for the price, blackberry fruit and some white pepper.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pasta with Fresh Tomato & Arugula Sauce

Another CSA challenge! Toward the end of last week, despite my diligent cooking efforts there will still a lot of tomatoes and a bunch of arugula on hand. With that combination, I often saute arugula with garlic, toss with pasta and a bit of diced tomatoes. But I'd just done something like that more recently, and was read to make a more full blown sauce. We were really pleased with the fresh, peppery taste of this one. Give it a try next time you have some extra tomatoes and arugula on hand!

1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
24 ozs chopped fresh tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
15 ozs cannellini beans
12 ozs short pasta, I used shells
1 bunch arugula, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley
salt to taste
pinch red pepper flakes
grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, saute on medium heat for a few minutes. Add the bell peppers, then the garlic. When the peppers and onions have begun to soften, after about 5 minutes, gently stir in the tomatoes. Lower heat a bit to simmer the tomatoes. Add the balsamic vinegar.

Begin cooking the pasta according to package instructions after the tomatoes have been added.

After the tomatoes have begun to cook down a bit, add the cannellini beans, parsley, salt and red pepper flakes. Smash a about 2 tbsp of them against the side of the pan to thicken the sauce. The arugula needs about 5 minutes to wilt and cook down, so add that when the pasta is getting close to being done.

Drain the pasta when done, and toss with the other tbsp of oil and the tomato sauce. Grate a bit of the cheese on right away, and stir in. Pass additional cheese to serve. Enjoy with a glass of Chianti!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hatch Chile Salsa

Salsa! I love to say it, but it's not something I've made too often. But when considering what I ought to do with the Hatch Chile I grilled the other night, I noted the large, very ripe tomato we also had. Salsa seemed like a natural.

A bit more of the back story. I saw Hatch Chiles on sale at Whole Foods recently, with a sign suggesting they were good for grilling. So I picked up one up without much of a plan. The chile sat in the fridge for about a week, so I figured I better do something with it. It didn't take long Googling Hatch Chiles to realize there is a cult-like reverence for these peppers. The flavor and the short two week window in late August when they are picked contribute to the chile love. All the articles I saw mentioned the great aroma that comes from the chiles when they are grilled, and it was time for me to try it for myself! I only bought 1 chile this time, but the recipe could--and probably should--be scaled pretty easily. Hatch Chiles come with various degrees of heat, what I got wasn't labelled but I assume it was in the medium range.

1 Hatch Chile (medium spice)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 cup diced tomato--make sure it's nice and ripe!
generous grinds salt & pepper

First, preheat a grill to medium. Spray the chile with cooking oil, and grill on direct heat, turning every few minutes so it gets nicely singed all around. It takes about 10 minutes to grill. I simply set aside to let it cool, though other recipes suggest cooling it in a brown paper bag to make it easier to get the skins off.

When the chile has cooled, remove the outer layer of skin with a sharp knife. Start by cutting a slit down lengthwise, then grab and peel the thin skin. Gloves are suggested for this, or just be careful not to rub your eyes in the process! In prepping the chile, I quickly learned that the articles I'd read hadn't exaggerated about the wonderful smell.

Once the skin is off the chile, cut it open and remove most of the seeds. I kept a bit of the seeds, perhaps 1/4 of them or so. You can adjust the amount of seeds based on the amount of kick you want for your salsa--it's the seeds that pack the heat. After seeding, chop the chile flesh and place it in a small bowl along with any seeds you choose to use.

Stir in the remaining ingredients. Let it sit for an hour or so to let the flavors meld. Then you are ready to enjoy! It's tasty simply eating it with chips, and added great flavor when I served it on some fairly plan leftover baked chicken we had on hand. I plan to use the rest for tacos or burritos soon! This salsa had so much vibrant, fresh flavor, makes me wonder if I'll ever buy salsa in a jar again.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kale Pesto

Earlier this summer, I was inundated with kale from the consumer support agriculture (CSA). Though I like combining kale with sausage for kale soup and things like this pasta dish, that was starting to get a bit old. As a big fan of traditional and creative pesto, I was excited to come across The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen's recipe for kale pesto. I made enough tweaks to her recipe based on what I had in hand that I figured I'd share my own recipe here, while crediting her for the inspiration and basic concept. I noticed this was still stuck in my draft blog posts and wanted to share. Though we haven't had kale in awhile from the CSA, I'm sure it will be back...and of course, it's available in abundance year-round at grocery stores. Here's my version, which we really enjoyed:

3 cups kale, rinsed and thick stems removed
1 cup arugula
3 garlic cloves
1/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1 tbsp pine nuts
generous pinch red pepper flakes
salt and  pepper to taste
1/2 cup (or a tad more) grated pecorino romano cheese
2/3 cup olive oil

Begin cooking some pasta before you start making the pesto. Add the kale, arugula and garlic to a food processor, coarsely chopping to create enough room for the other ingredients. Add the other ingredients and puree until it comes to a nice smooth consistency. Toss with the hot pasta after it's cooked and drained, then serve. As with other pestos, I gradually stir the pesto into the pasta until fairly well coated, but not too heavy. I then let people serve extra pesto according to taste. Pass extra cheese at the table.