Saturday, August 31, 2013

Getting the Most from Your Corn – August 30, 2013

I believe we purchased the last of the good summer sweet corn last week.  It has been a great year for corn, so I can’t really complain, but it is sad to see it go.  We mostly eat our corn right on the cob after boiling for three minutes.  I just add a little salt to sweet corn and enjoy.  For other less flavorful corn, I will eat Mexican style by slathering with a mayo/sour cream mixture, Parmesan and red pepper (plus a squeeze of lime juice).  The best thing about corn is that it can be put up for later with little effort.  You just shuck, cut off the corn and freeze in bags. 

This Summer I have really been enjoying corn and small potatoes in salads (see the blog two weeks ago for Golden Corn Salad).  And, I am always looking for a new way to make use of the corn husks.  I haven’t started making dolls yet, but last year I made tamales and this year I found a really interesting recipe for Corn Husk Oil Dressing.  It is great on a salad with corn and the flavors mix well with the sweet sour taste of sundried tomatoes and sharp cheeses.  I tried the original Weinbar recipe with tofu and made my own riff replacing it with Greek yogurt.  Both were tasty, but I think I preferred the yogurt for a bit of tartness and a thinner dressing.

Charred Corn Husk Oil Dressing

Husk from 1 ear corn
1 c. veg. oil
5 oz. tofu, drained and cut up (or Greek yogurt)
3 T. lemon juice
2 T. apple cider vinegar
1 T. honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat boiler and lay husks out on cookie sheet in single layer.  Broil until charred in spots (about 4 minutes).  Tear husk and blend in blender with oil.  Strain and you are left with 1 c. infused oil.  This will keep in your fridge for at least a week.  When ready, blend remaining ingredients with ¼ c. of the oil and serve.

One Year Ago - Healthy Raisin Bran Muffins

Friday, August 23, 2013

Did You Know Onions Could Walk? – August 23, 2013

John and I have several garden beds in our yard, but we also have a garden bed at Billy Goat Hill Community Garden.  This year our community bed is full of cherry tomatoes and okra, but half the fun is seeing what others are growing around us and I have learned about all kinds of new plants that grow locally including Borage, Ground Cherries and Walking Onions.

I never knew an onion could walk, but these really do.  The walking onion grows a long stalk much like a leek.  At the top of the stalk, baby bulbs form resembling the scapes of garlic.  Once these get heavy enough, they cause the whole plant to fall over allowing the bulbs to root into the ground and form new stalks.  Through this method, the onions eventually move throughout the garden creating new plants.  I learned from an Internet search that these onions originate from Greece.

A fellow gardener gave me several onions that had started to take over her bed.  Greek Onion recipes aren’t that easy to find, so I tasted the onions first.  They actually taste more like a shallot than an onion with a mild garlic/onion flavor.  I started by using the onion bulbs.  I peeled them like a garlic bulb, crushed and minced.  They were delicious in an omelet with cheese and red peppers.  Then, I decided to make use of the stalks.  I chopped them in I inch sections like a leek and boiled in water for about 50 minutes.  It made a great onion broth that I froze for later.  Weeks later I found the perfect use in a Vietnamese chicken noodle soup adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse.  Here is the recipe in case you want to give it a try.  You can make this using water instead of the onion stock, but it definitely added to the complexity of the meal.

Pho Ga

1 chicken cut in parts
4 quarts onion broth (or water)
1 inch crushed ginger
2 tsp. salt
½ lb. rice noodles
Fresh cilantro, mint and basil sprigs
1 c. bean sprouts
Lime, cut in wedges
Chopped jalapeno
Sriracha and fish sauce

Bring broth to boil with garlic and chicken pieces.  Reduce to low and simmer 3 hours.  Strain the broth and season with salt.  Prepare noodles and divide between four bowls.  Break up chicken meat (discarding skin and bones) and divide evenly adding to bowls.  Ladle broth on top of each bowl.  Serve with remaining ingredients and allow everyone to add to their taste. 

One year ago – Fennel Apple Slaw, Pear Aigre Doux and Applesauce

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What Is Fennel? – August 18, 2013

Until a few years ago, I had no idea what fennel even looked like.  It was a remote vegetable that I knew was used in French fish recipes.  I was mostly familiar with the seed found in some unusual recipes for its mild licorice flavor.  This all changed when I found a recipe for Apple Fennel Salad (see last August). 

Every year about this time, John and I visit the apple orchards in central Kentucky.  You can buy from the store or pick your own, but we like to purchase the boxes of seconds for pennies on the dollar.  We get giant bags of apples and pears, so I’m always looking for a new way to make them in addition to the usual pies and applesauce. 

Then, this year we grew our own fennel and it was a great idea.  It grew so well in our area.  I tried it in two beds and it grew best in firm soil.  This is great because fennel being unusual is often expensive.  The main stalk looks a lot like a bulbous celery and is the part you use for the salad.  You can also use the fronds in recipes.  They are beautiful on a platter with whole cooked fish on top.  I freeze some in freezer bags, but usually throw much away because it is less useful than the bulbs.

Pickled Fennel
3 c. Champagne vinegar
1 1/2 c. water
3/4 c. plus 1 T. sugar
4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 bulbs fennel, sliced

Bring first four ingredients to boil until dissolved.  Toast spices and divide between 4 pint jars.  Pack in fennel.  You can add a fennel frond on top.  Pour brine over, seal and boil 15 minutes.

We had so many fennel, I now had to get adventurous with it.  This was easy and delicious:

Fennel Fish Stew
3 T. olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon thinly sliced
2 minced cloves garlic
2 T. tomato paste
4 Roma tomatoes or an equal amount of cherry tomatoes, sliced
2 c. dry white wine
2 c. fish, veggie or chicken stock
1 ½ lb. cod or Pollock fillets, cut in 8 chunks
Fresh parsley

Add oil, onions, fennel, bay leaf, salt and pepper to pot on medium and cook until tender, but not brown, 6-8 minutes.  Add lemon, garlic and paste and stir until reddish brown.  Add tomatoes and another pinch salt.  Cook until tomatoes break up, stirring, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine and scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered until most of the wine has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, raise to a simmer then add the fish into the pot, and simmer until fish is cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Serve warm with a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

One Year Ago - Watermelon Rind Pickles and Watermelon Salad

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Small But Mighty Cherry Tomato – August 10, 2013

We are eat up with cherry tomatoes.  We have six plants which have all been prolific, so I have had to be more thoughtful about using them than usual.  Most years, we have lots of cherry tomatoes in green salads or in adapted Caprese salads with basil and mozzarella.  When we can’t keep up, I then cut them in half and dry them in the oven or a dehydrator.  I keep these in a plastic bag in the fridge and toss in salads for much longer.  I suppose you could also use these to make tomato pesto or more exciting things.

But, now I have found a great way to use cherry tomatoes to make pasta sauce in no time and we have been enjoying it throughout the Summer.  It does involve heating up the oven in the Summer, but it is worth it.  If you don’t want to heat up your house, you can just cook the tomatoes in a heavy pot on the stove top, but it requires you to pay more attention and after trying both ways, I just thought the roasting brought out more of the sweetness of the tomatoes.  You can really play around with this recipe.  I use homemade carrot pesto, but you can use any pesto you like.  I like it best with the tablespoon of pesto so you really taste the tomatoes, but we tried it with the full cup of pesto and it was wonderful with scallops right off the grill.  You could add red pepper or other spices.  The most important factor in this recipe is really good olive oil.

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes
1 pint cherry tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. fettuccine or linguine
1 T. to 1 cup pesto
Parmesan cheese to taste

Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss the cherry tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, salt and black pepper.  Place in a baking dish and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and add pesto before setting aside.  Cook the pasta as directed.  Add the roasted tomatoes and toss.  Top with Parmesan cheese.

I also found another great recipe in a magazine that is fabulous for using up things in the fridge or garden and that really highlights the beauty of the yellow pear-shaped cherry tomatoes.

Golden Corn Salad
8 oz. small yellow or red tomatoes, boiled 11 minutes and quartered
3-4 ears corn, boiled three minutes and kernels removed
2 c. pear-shaped yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
1 chopped red bell pepper
¼ c. minced shallot
3 T. white Balsamic vinegar
1 T. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
3 T. olive oil
3-6 c. arugula or other salad greens
½ c. torn basil leaves
2 oz. goat cheese, sliced

Combine potatoes, corn, tomatoes and bell pepper.  Combine shallots and next 5 ingredients through the oil, whisking.  Drizzle over salad and Carefully toss in basil and greens.  Top with cheese and serve.

One Year Ago - Watermelon Salad and Watermelon Rind Pickles

Saturday, August 3, 2013

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato – August 3, 2013

You know it’s full on summer when you bike to the Farmer’s Market and can see tomatoes, no matter where you look.  Tomatoes are so fun because there is such a variety and everyone has their favorite.  This year we are growing Vincen Watts (an heirloom variety actually brought to the area and kept going by my mother-in-law’s family), Green Stripies, Black Stripies, Yellow Pear Cherries and a Red Cherry.  We also bought a 25 lb. box of Better Boys from the Farmer’s Market for canning.  The first thing I made was tomato jam.  I love it on bruschetta with goat cheese and olive oil and I take tomato jam and sharp cheddar sandwiches to work for lunch.  It’s best on Cake Flour’s hearty wheat bread.  It doesn’t take much tomato jam when serving, but it’s a bit disappointing to see how little it makes after you cook it down, so be prepared and use small canning jars to enjoy it longer.  This recipe was adapted from one shared by Mark Williams, the chef at Brown Foreman.

Tomato Jam

5 c. Tomatoes, boiled and skins removed (also try to remove as much water and seeds as possible)
2 T. olive oil
¾ c. diced onion or shallot
½ tsp. salt (or to taste)
1 tsp. pepper
¾ c. sugar
½ c. red wine

Dice or break up tomatoes.  Warm olive oil in heavy pan and sauté onions with salt and pepper.  Once browned, add sugar and wine.  Cook down until wine evaporates.  Add tomatoes and cook again until it thickens.  Can in jars and refrigerate or boil 10 minutes to seal and make shelf stable.

Then, I made salsa which I posted last year and tried homemade ketchup for the first time.  I had bought some ketchup at a great farm to table restaurant in Bloomington.  It was delicious but a bit too spicy for most uses.  This recipe has a lot of spice unlike Heinz, but it isn’t hot.  It is also fun to make because you just toss everything in a crock pot and wake up to ketchup the next morning.

Homemade Ketchup

10 large tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp. ground fennel seeds
4 cloves garlic
¼ c. sugar
½ c. molasses
¼ c. brown sugar
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
1 onion thinly sliced and caramelized on the stove top
¾ T. cloves
2 star anise pods
1 1/2 T. salt

Add everything to crock pot and keep cooking until soft and thickened.  Add more vinegar or salt to taste.  Can in jars or bottles.

We tried one other new thing with our tomato bounty this week.  My husband, John, is a big fan – tomato pie.

 Tomato Pie

4 minced shallots
3 minced garlic cloves
2 1/2 T. olive oil
1 T. Dijon mustard
9 inch pie shell
1 lb. assorted heirloom tomatoes
3 oz. crumbled Gorganzola (or goat cheese)
½ oz. chopped fresh basil
1/2 T. wine vinegar
¼ c. bread crumbs
1 oz. grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a small pan sauté shallots and garlic in 1 T. oil for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in mustard.  Make holes in bottom of pie crust with fork and cook 5 minutes.  Make a layer of tomatoes on the bottom of the crust and then add salt and pepper before layering on the shallot mixture, goat cheese and half the basil.  Top with another layer of tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with 1/2 T. oil and ½ T. vinegar and remaining basil.  Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan and remaining oil.  Sprinkle on top.  Bake 20 minutes or until golden.

One Year Ago - Romanesco Sauce and Eggplant Caviar