Posts filed under ‘Purely Vegetables’
I’d better hurry up and post this recipe for Grilled Basil Garlic Corn Coins. I realize the last days of fresh-picked local corn on the cob are upon us, at least for this season. This second dish on my recently full summer plate is the perfect way to savor those last few ears that show up at the farmers market. Because the grilling imparts a smokey and more savory flavor to the corn, it’s a good preparation for corn that’s reached its end and may not be as sweet as it once was when the season was young. Plus it just looks beautiful cut into coins like this, doesn’t it? Good way to impress your dinner guests.
I spent the weekend with my family at the farm and enjoyed plenty of funny moments watching my young niece and nephew cover their faces in corn as they raced to eat their ears like typewriters. There was also a race to eat the most watermelon the fastest. I won that one, of course. Spending time there at the farm, immersed in nature and family, is always rejuvenating for my soul. Most weekends, D can attest to my groans come Sunday evening, when I rather predictably mutter something to the effect that the weekend went way to fast. While I was visiting with my family, enjoying working alongside my mom on some projects, picking the tail end of the garden harvests with my dad, and taking sun-kissed walks with the family dog, I was amazed at how long the days felt, stretching on for hours in the best way possible. Something about the beauty of wide open fields and the low light of autumn that slows the clock’s hands.
This past weekend I took the autumnal blue skies in stride and made a trip to the Headhouse Farmers Market to pick up some long-anticipated Asian pears and other specialty bits that I’m not growing myself. I love farmers markets any time of the year, but strolling the stalls in fall is an extra special experience. When September rolls around, fields are in their peak of production as they hold on to the last of the summer crops and start to churn out harvests from the fall crops too. Peppers mingle with pears, butternut squash cohabitates with tomatillos, apples stand shoulder-to-shoulder with white peaches, and heirloom tomatoes keep stride with freshly dug potatoes.
After loading up on the coveted Asian pears from North Star Orchard, gala and honey crisp apples from Ben at Three Springs Fruit Farm, new fingerling potatoes from Yoder Heirlooms, and some plums from Beechwood Orchards, I decided it was time to truck it all back to the kitchen and make a delicious all-local meal for D and I to eat out on the deck in the cool autumn-kissed twilight. There’s something about seeing one plate piled with nothing but locally-sourced ingredients, be it from an atmospheric farmers market, the vegetable garden, or just containers on the deck, that seems utterly poetic to me. Am I alone in this sentiment?
I decided to make a mini-series out of the three recipes I used to create this end-of-summer-beginning-of-autumn dinner, though the plate full of food reminded me more of summer still. I think it was the grilled corn coins that kept the flavors of warm days at the forefront of my mind, despite the chill in the air.
I’m starting off with the potatoes because they have so many memories associated with them from my childhood days. We grew potatoes on the farm and planting and digging them were big family affairs – my grandparents would come down from their house on the hill above ours, my brothers would all be there, my parents of course, and occasionally even some cousins and aunts. Sometime I’ll spin the tale of all that went into growing those potatoes – suffice to say that as a very Irish family, we planted plenty and celebrated their harvest with heaps of young tender baby potatoes fried up just as I have here in today’s post. I always loved getting the extra crispy little bits hot out of the oil. Originally my mom would fry these in lard – hello Pennsylvania Dutch heritage – but I can’t bring myself to do that so vegetable or canola oil are good choices instead, though the flavor just isn’t quite the same.
While we only grew your basic white potatoes when I was a kid, the adult me now enjoys having a mix of potatoes in this fry. The sweet potatoes are almost a must as they make the platter memorable. They do fry faster than the other potatoes though so watch them closely or put them in separately.
Come back soon to load up your plate with the recipes for Warm Beet Salad with Roasted Garlic Dressing and Grill Basil Garlic Corn Coins!
As the growing season winds down, I’m trying my best to savor some of the flavors of summer that I’ll soon be missing when the cold weather comes. Tomatoes are always quintessential to summer dining. Unfortunately it was a bad year around here for locally grown tomatoes with that nasty blight wiping them out, including those in my vegetable garden. My salvation has been the two potted tomatoes on my deck, which have been producing a bumper crop despite being confined to a container. With compost mixed into the potting soil and a weekly soaking with an organic solution of compost tea, they have been real troopers. I’m growing ‘Super Bush’ from Renee’s Garden Seeds because this variety has been bred to handle containers with gusto. While they can’t begin to compare to a juicy flavorful heirloom tomato, these Super Bush have surprised me with their longevity and the truly outstanding sauce they make.
So to celebrate this bumper crop of a summery favorite, I decided to make another local seasonal favorite – tomato pie. Now, I realize when some of you read “tomato pie” you’re expecting something like this that Elise made. As delicious as her recipe looks, tomato pie can only be one thing in my house: a version of pizza topped simply with fresh homemade tomato sauce. Around Philadelphia, this Sicilian-inspired pizza pie is a staple in any respectable pizzeria or Italian bakery. It’s always prepared in a rectangular shape and usually served cold or at room temperature with a light dusting of grated parmesan just before it’s boxed up or dished out.
Since there are no gooey cheeses or droves of toppings, the seasoning of the sauce is crucial to a good tomato pie. I put heaps of basil and oregano in mine, along with plenty of garlic. I also like to use a red onion instead of yellow because it tempers the acidity of the tomatoes, adding greater complexity to the flavors. And finally, my secret ingredient is a carrot! By adding a chopped up carrot to the sauce as it simmers, a hint of sweetness comes into its undertones that is a perfect complement to the yeasty sweetness of the crunchy crust.
As with any pizza, working with the dough can be intimidating for anyone just getting started with homemade tomato pie. I try to take a very relaxed and zen approach to it. I never aim for perfection when rolling it and shaping it, though getting it as thin as possible is always the goal. Over many years of failures and successes, I’ve learned that the real trick to a good crust is the oven. You don’t need a fancy wood-fired oven (though if you have one can I be your new best friend?), but you do need a hot regular old oven. Make sure you pre-heat your oven at its hottest possible temperature and also pre-heat your pan or stone at the same time. When the dough hits that hot surface in that hot chamber, it has no choice but to puff up and get airy and crisp. Just be sure to watch your pizza/pie closely as it will go from “perfect golden and crunchy” to “charred inedible slab” in just a few minutes.
Oh, and when cutting a tomato pie, you must make square slices. It’s the rule. Don’t know why. It just is. While my personal preference is to snack on cold slices in the afternoon, it’s fun to serve tomato pie at parties or for dinner with other types of pizza. One of my Italian-American friends loves to grill slices at his big summer picnic, and it’s very tasty with just the bottom of the crust warmed up and a little bit charred. Mmmmmmm.
Beets, much like brussel sprouts, have suffered at the hands and up-turned noses of small children everywhere. And, just like brussel sprouts, the ruby and orange roots have experienced a bit of a renaissance in those of us adults who have finally grown up enough to realize that sometimes if you just try something, you’ll actually like it. I credit the dislodging of beets from the “ick” category to the beautiful and fresh varieties that have poured into farmer markets around the country. Even people who don’t have any interest in buying beets from our market table are prone – even compelled – to pick up a bunch of these colorful beauties to appreciate visually, if not in actual taste.
I have to confess that I wasn’t a huge beet fan myself when I was younger. I did, however, love the pickled beets my mom made every year to line our root cellar shelves. I’ll be posting a recipe for those shortly, by the way. I didn’t discover the rustic sweet delight of roasted beets until much later in life (okay, so only a few years ago, in truth). Now I can’t imagine a dinner I’d rather have more than one that centers around roasted beets.
Today’s recipe for Gingered Millet with Roasted Beets is a show-stopper, both in taste and presentation. The ginger is the perfect spicy heat pairing for the natural sugars of the beets. The millet is hearty and healthy, making an entire meal out of this one dish. Hot or cold, this is a dish that does double duty as a dinner entree or a picnic lunch next to a vibrant salad of fresh greens dressed in simple oil and vinegar.
If you don’t have these exact ingredients on hand, don’t fret. Save for the beets and ginger, you can achieve pretty much the same flavors and textures with substitutions such as quinoa, spelt, or orzo for the grain; white or yellow onions instead of red; grape tomatoes instead of sungolds; tarragon instead of cilantro; and so forth. Experiment and make this recipe your own using whatever is coming out of your garden. Just please do come back and tell us all about your adaptations, especially if any of them win over the wee ones in the crowd!
Oh non, je suis désolé, mes chéris! This post was meant to go up automatically while I was traveling this past week to Puerto Rico. But apparently there was some sort of “technical difficulty” and here it is, several days late and perhaps nearing the end of that most wonderful time of spring: asparagus season! I hope that you are still able to get plenty of these delectable green shoots where you are. And of course there will be some photos shortly of my brief visit to sunny San Juan that will remind us all that summer is just around the corner.
Ah, asparagus season! It’s here in full force and I snapped up several bunches of these delicious green spears at last week’s Headhouse Market where the tables were already beginning to fill out with all manner of greens, herbs, asparagus, rhubarb, fennel, and even some apples that had been stored through the winter in a cool barn cellar. And of course, my favorite bakery and cheese vendors were back once more, and I made sure to show my appreciation by buying much more than I should have since I won’t be home much this week (I’m traveling south to Puerto Rico for a professional development opportunity).
But back to the asparagus, my favorite of all spring time ephemeral foods. I grew up with plenty of asparagus at the ready in both my backyard and the roadside bed across from my grandmother’s house. I never was one of those kids that pinched my nose and said “pee-yew!” when mom brought over the asparagus platter to the dinner table. I loved it from the start and I loved picking it – going out each morning to see if there were new shoots the right size for the taking. Asparagus can grow very quickly this time of year, literally overnight.
I never realized what a treat I had on my hands back then. Fresh picked asparagus is leaps and bounds better than anything you’ll ever get in the store. Even the stuff that’s at the farmers market, if it’s been picked a few days in advance, is already starting to toughen up and loose its sugars. I usually ask the farmer when it was picked before buying and then I try to make sure I use up the asparagus within a day or two to get maximum flavor. As such, I made it a point to put together this Roasted Asparagus Risotto before leaving town.