Beef and Root Vegetable Stew

Beef and Root Vegetables Stew (Finished)Way at the top of the list of beef stew sins are: a) taking your stew out of the oven too early thereby ending up with beef that is tough and hard to chew, and b) making a broth that is too watery. This stew takes those two sins and whips them in the arse.

How does it do that? Well, first of all, it has a 1/2 bottle of wine in it. The wine gives the broth a wonderfully deep, rich taste and–though I haven’t conducted any sceintific experiments–I think the acidity of the wine helps to break down the beef fibers to make it oh-so-tender.

 

Beef and Root Vegetables Stew

 

 

I adapted this recipe from Jamie Oliver, who says that he tried to make this stew like any other beef stew or boeuf bourguignon recipe, where you first brown the meat, then add the vegetables. But, he said this particular stew came out better without browning the meat at all and just adding the vegetables at the same time. That’s great news for us, because it’s that much easier to make!

 

 

 

 

Beef and Root Vegetables Stew 2

While Jamie’s recipe called for parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes, I used what I had from the farm–turnips instead of parsnips–and I nixed the Jerusalem artichokes because they are just so freakin’ expensive. One note: I do not peel my root vegetables. I just don’t think it’s necessary when you’re using organically-grown veggies. Besides, how many people have eaten potato skins before? The skin of the carrot or the turnip is the same thing, right? Just wash ’em up real good! Besides, I don’t think a little dirt will hurt you. It’s called terroir–when the food takes on the flavor of the place it was grown. Yeah, this generally refers to wine…but I think it could be true with carrots too.

 

 

Beef and Root Vegetable Stew (wine)

Remember, you’re going to be adding a 1/2 bottle of wine to this. I admit, it is hard for me to pour a 1/2 bottle of wine into the pot, thinking about putting it to better use (by actually drinking it), but it is well worth it. I usually choose a wine that I would normally drink anyway (do NOT buy a bottle that you wouldn’t normally drink…it will taste in the stew like it tastes in the glass, so you’ll want to buy something you like. And don’t–under any circumstances–buy cooking wine. It will taste terrible). I really like this line of wines called “Just.” You can find them at Whole Foods and they are under $10.00. They are great for cooking with or for your regular weekday wine intake, when you don’t need anything too fancy, but you also don’t want to drink something icky. Half goes in the stew, and half goes in my tummy while I cook! It’s already a party and I haven’t even eaten anything yet!

 

 

Beef and Root Vegetable Stew (finished on stove)

This stew cooks for a while in the oven (3-4 hours). Don’t take it out a moment sooner than that! You want the beef to be nice and tender and to fall apart under your fork. By all means, test it first. I will tell you, the smell of this stew in your kitchen (and throughout your house) is a wonderful, comforting, warm smell, and it is totally worth the wait.

When you take the stew out of the oven, just before serving, add the garlic/rosemary/lemon mixture. It is so fragrant and adds a phenomenal touch to the stew. Don’t skip it! By the way, I made some cornbread to go with this, and it made for great dipping.

As you can see by the picture below, my dog Jack was all-too-happy with this recipe. I shared a little with him, but saved most of it for leftovers. It made for a great weeknight dinner the second time around.

 

 

Beef and Root Vegetable Stew (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Jool’s Favourite Beef Stew)Beef and Root Vegetable Stew (Jack Sniffing)

olive oil

Tablespoon of butter

1 onion, peeled and chopped

a handful of fresh sage leaves

¾lb beef stew meat

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

flour, to dust

4 small turnips, quartered*

4 carrots, halved

½ a butternut squash, halved, deseeded and roughly diced

1lb small potatoes (I used Yukon Golds)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

½ a bottle of red wine

½ pint beef stock

zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

a handful of rosemary, leaves picked

1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Put a Tablespoon of oil and a Tablespoon of butter into an oven-safe dutch oven.

Add the onion and all the sage leaves and fry for 3 or 4 minutes.

Toss the meat in a little seasoned flour, then add it to the pan with all the vegetables, the tomato purée, wine and stock, and gently stir together.

Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and just a little salt. Bring to a boil, place a lid on top, then cook in the preheated oven until the meat is tender. Sometimes this takes 3 hours, sometimes 4 – it depends on what cut of meat you’re using and how fresh it is. The only way to test is to mash up a piece of meat and if it falls apart easily it’s ready. Once it’s cooked, you can turn the oven down to about 225°F and just hold it there until you’re ready to eat.

Mix the lemon zest, chopped rosemary and garlic together and sprinkle over the stew before eating. Just the smallest amount will make a world of difference.

 
*I do not peel my root vegetables. I use organic vegetables, so there are no pesticides to worry about. I make sure I clean the dirt off as well as I can. Other than that, a little clean dirt will never hurt anyone. I would argue it adds a little local flavor (er, maybe).

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Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Mashed sweet potatoes, side viewThis has been one busy week. On top of regular work projects that needed attention and various urgent home repairs, I had to complete an 8,000 word essay for the journal Food and Foodways. I submitted a proposal last spring to write an essay on the Birmingham Public Library Archives collection of interviews of the people of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and it was accepted. You may have heard of Gee’s Bend’s Quilts; they have become nationally and internationally famous, touring around the country and inspiring books, plays, and museum exhibitions. But my interest in Gee’s Bend has to do with food. The Archives happens to have about 30 interviews of “Gee’s Benders” from the late 70s and early 80s; and Gee’s Benders talk to their interviewer about growing up this isolated part of Alabama in the early to mid-twentieth century. Though they talk about quilts, politics, and religion, one of their favorite subjects is traditional soul food: collard greens, black eyed peas, cornbread, pork, and of course, sweet potatoes.

Whole Sweet TatersThough I had an entire summer to write this article, I did not actually begin writing until about a month ago when my other work at the Library seemed to settle down a bit. But of course, things never settle down like you think they will, and this final week of writing was filled with early mornings, long days, and late evenings. Then, in the middle of the week, when I didn’t have a moment to think about cooking, Glenn brought home the first of this season’s sweet potatoes. I got home from work on Wednesday night, tired and cranky, and saw them sitting on the counter, just another thing needing my attention. I thought about looking up a recipe or two, wondering what fancy schmancy thing I could do with them, but I just couldn’t do it. I was exhausted. 

So, I did the absolutely simplest thing I Sweet potato, split side viewcould do: I washed them, poked them with a fork, and threw them in the oven to roast for about an hour while I watched House Hunters…er, I mean CSPAN. When they were tender, I split them in half, scooped out the meat, and mashed them in a bowl with butter, brown sugar and sea salt. That’s it. That was dinner. Comfort food in a bowl. The people of Gee’s Bend didn’t mess with any butter, brown sugar, and sea salt, but I think they would have approved. To make a long week’s story short, I got my essay turned in on Friday, but with a little help from some mid-week soul food that absolutely lived up to its name.

 Sweet Potatoes, all mashed upMashed Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes (I used two big ones)

about 1/4 cup of brown sugar

about a 1/2 stick of butter (4 tablespoons)

between 1/2 and a full teaspoon of sea salt

Wash (scrub if you’re scareda dirt) and poke holes in sweet potatoes (to let the steam escape). Roast them in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour. My sweet potatoes were big and took a whole hour. DO NOT TAKE THEM OUT EARLY–they will be kind of tough and stringy and just no fun. I put mine in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mashed them with a potato masher, but feel free to use a mixer if you don’t like yours with some lumps. Because the size of sweet potatoes varies (don’t worry, size doesn’t matter, unlike what some people tell you), test the butter/sugar/salt ratio until you find something you like. I particularly love sea salt in this recipe. The coarseness of the salt granules means they don’t quite melt all the way, and a little salty grain is nice with such a sweet vegetable. If you’ve got it, I would recommend some pork ribs or collard greens with these (Gee’s Benders knew what they were doing).

Kristen’s Butternut Squash Soup with Sausage and Pears

 

Kristen's Butternut Squash Soup 2

Let me tell a little story about a rainy Saturday in Martinsburg, West Virginia. One chilly fall morning, when I still lived in Baltimore, I visited my good friend and incredible cook, Kristen, way the heck out in Martinsburg, Wild Wonderful West Virginia. It was an icky morning: cold and wet and not the best driving weather. But I knew, as I left I-81 at the Martinsburg exit, that it would all be worth it, because one of Kristen’s gourmet wonders would await me (which I already knew because when she invited me over I asked her to make me lunch too–subtle, I know). 

 

Weighing Butternut SquashWhen I got there, Kristen told me she had made butternut squash soup. What a perfect day for soup, I thought. I would love a nice, warm bowl of sweet, nutmeg-spiced goodness! Oh, but I was completely caught off guard! Now, I had made butternut squash soup maybe a half dozen times before, and I thought I knew what to expect. But OH NO, this was no ordinary bowl of soup…this soup had texture! it had fruitiness! it had sausage!!

 

Butternut Squash Soup 1

This butternut squash soup is by far the best I have ever had, and I make it every year as soon as I can get my hands on the first squash. Glenn brought the first one home from the farm the other day and it was absolutely beautiful: sweet smelling, orange as a pumpkin, and big, weighing in at 4 pounds, 11 ounces. Perfection. Because the squash takes so long to roast through, I usually roast it the night before, put it in the fridge, and remove it from the skin the next day. Not only are you not still waiting to eat at 10:30 at night, but by the time you cut up the squash, it’s nice and cool and comes out of the skin easily.

When Kristen served me this soup, she used a hot Italian sausage. I just happened to have some turkey and spinach sausage in the freezer, so I used that, and it was great. Also, she made her soup with apples. But we still had some pears left over from my brother-in-law’s tree, and they were fabulous. 

 

Sage Leaves

 

What else goes great with butternut squash? Sage. Sage and butternut are an absolutely perfect pair, and I finally got to use some of the sage leaves from my own garden–holes and all–that I started from seed last spring.

Anyway, back to West Virginia, which, by the way, might be my favorite state in this whole country. Why? First, it exists because it was not afraid to go its own way during the Civil War–what other state can you think of that formed out of another state because it didn’t like the way the first state was handling things? Nope, I can’t think of one either. Secondly, it is beautiful and kind of mysterious looking. The Blue Ridge Mountains are not only nice to look at, but let’s face it, they’re kind of creepy looking too. I mean, they really are blue and foggy and, can you say Blair Witch? Next, I love the song Almost Heaven, West Virginia, by John Denver. And finally, my uncle tells me there might be a small possibility that my ancestors sewed up John Brown’s pants. I don’t know exactly how he knows that, but I’m going with it.

That day at Kristen’s ended up to be so nice. It stopped raining after lunch, and she and I went to buy apples and pumpkins at a local farm. We ended the afternoon with dessert at a local soda-fountain–yes, a real one, still operating in downtown Martinsburg. What a great day! But the best part of the day was that I stole this recipe and now it is mine mine mine!!

Enjoy! And thanks Kristen!

 

 

Kristen's Butternut Squash Soup plus toast

Kristen’s Butternut Squash Soup with Sausage and Pears

Makes enough for 4-6 people (or 3 regular people plus one Glenn)

4-5 lb butternut squash

6 Tablespoons butter

2 yellow onions, diced finely

8 fresh sage leaves, chopped

6 cups fresh chicken stock

1 cup apple cider (optional)

salt and pepper

though Kristen’s original recipe didn’t call for it, I added about a 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. Let’s call that optional.

3 links sausage (I used turkey spinach sausage)

1 pear sliced (Kristen’s original recipe calls for apples, but I had a pear. Whatever floats your boat!)

 

Preheat the oven to 400. Wash and thoroughly pierce the squash with a fork. Place in a large baking pan and roast until tender (could take 1-2 hours). While the squash cools, saute all but 1/4 cup of onions in the butter; add the sage; slice open, remove the seeds from the squash, and add the flesh to the sauteed onions. Add the chicken stock and nutmeg and simmer for 45 minutes. Puree with a hand blender or cool slightly and process batches in a standing blender (serioulsly, folks, blend it in small batches…I made the mistake of putting too much in at once and, well, we don’t like to talk about what happened–it’s to painful to relive). Add apple cider and salt and pepper to taste.

Brown sausage, add pear or apple and remaining onions and cook until soft. Use as a garnish.

Gumbo

GumboI’ve lived in Alabama for almost four years (wow, typing that makes me pause). Before I moved here, I doubt that I’d ever had gumbo once. I don’t think I’d ever tried okra–one of the key gumbo ingredients–except for maybe some of that fried stuff down at the Cracker Barrel. When Glenn brought home okra from the farm last year (and kept bringing bags and bags of it home every single week), I figured I’d better learn to make it. I started searching for recipes, not knowing what made good gumbo…well…good! I tried recipe after recipe, and they were all fine, but none was THE ONE. By the time summer was over, I was tired of trying and tired of gumbo.

Bowl O' OkraThis year, when Glenn brought home the first batch of okra, I was ready to try again. This time, I consulted the recipe of Paula Deen (you know, Paula Deen of the Food Network, the one who uses a pound of butter in every recipe?) of my neighboring state of Georgia. Why in the world had I not even considered looking at a Paula Deen recipe last year?! Well, for one thing, the last time I tried a Paula Deen recipe, I had a bit of a disaster. It wasn’t her fault. It happened when I made her outrageously delicious coconut cake for my own office going away party. My coworkers at the Baltimore Museum of Art requested I make my OWN GOING AWAY PARTY CAKE. Ha! I don’t blame them for asking me to make it–I had made it once before, and it was INSANE. It is an amazingly rich, sweet, wonderful cake, and I was happy to make it again (I wanted it too, you know!). I spent all evening on it…probably four hours total. I slaved over this cake, knowing it would be my last hurrah at the museum and knowing my colleagues were waiting patiently for it.

Finally, around 10:30 that evening, I finished it. I was exhausted. I was so ready to sleep. I picked up the cake to put it in the refrigerator until morning, and as I opened the refrigerator door, some unknown hateful spirit–perhaps some jealous Food Network Paula Deen competitor? Rachael Ray? Alton Brown?–picked that cake right off my palm, flipped it upside down, and it landed on the kitchen floor completely inverted. Yeah, there was no saving that one.

Chicken and SausageGlenn was sitting in the other room watching a baseball game. I quietly, to myself, in disbelief, said “Oh. My. God.” Glenn didn’t hear me. A little louder I said it: “Oh. My. God!” He suddenly sensed displeasure in the kitchen and looked my way. “OH. MY GOD!!!” I said a third time. This got his attention. He looked down the short hallway at me, standing at the refrigerator with the door hanging open and an empty cake plate in my hand. I saw his eyes look at my eyes, then the plate, then the open refrigerator door. His head slowly lowered until he reached the dead cake, smeared beneath my feet on the linoleum floor.

Make a RouxHe looked back up at me, his mouth open. I looked at him, my mouth open. After several minutes of staring at each other in silence, I smiled. Then he smiled. I laughed…a deep gutteral, insupressable laugh. Then he laughed with me, involuntarily making me laugh even harder. What else could we do? There was no saving this cake. It was carnage, pure carnage, and it had met its demise before anyone could even taste it.

So, we did the next best thing (actually eating the cake being the first best thing)…Glenn got out the camera and began to take pictures. First, we took pictures of the cake, splattered all over the kitchen floor. Then we took pictures of the two of us eating the cake off the kitchen floor–carefully–with forks…then without forks. Finally, we took pictures of our two cats eating the cake off the kitchen floor.

Gumbo 2009 003Then we emailed the pictures. Emailed them to my entire department, knowing they would all open them first thing the next morning, laugh, and then take pity on me when I didn’t show up with my–er, Paula Deen’s–cake. Waiting for me when I got to work the next day for my going-away party was a very lovely coconut cake made at a local bakery that someone had sneaked out to buy after they had watched the cake disaster unfold in my email photo array. One of my coworkers, soberly, cut the store-bought cake and passed the plates and forks around. We all sat down to eat it, and each of us looked around the table at the others. “It’s great!” I said, with a grateful smile. “Yes, it’s very good,” each one of my colleagues said politely as we tasted our slices. But I know what we were all thinking. Each of us, right at that very moment, was thinking the same thing. We were all thinking how much we loved, and how much we missed, Paula Deen.

RiceAnd that brings me back to gumbo. When you want a Southern recipe, always always always go to a Southerner! And be careful! Don’t drop your wonderful completed recipe all over the floor for godsakes! Yes, Paula Deen’s recipes tend to be over the top with fat and butter, but in this case, gumbo just doesn’t have a lot of fat in it anyway. The only neccesary fat in this recipe is five tablespoons of butter. It sounds like a lot, but remember this recipe feeds 8-10 people…so that’s not much at all. If you don’t want to use real andouille sausage, you can always substitute turkey or chicken sausage. The pork andouille, however, is what really makes this recipe authentic, so if you can do it, don’t skimp on the sausage.

Gumbo 2Gumbo recipe from Miss Paula Deen, Y’all!

8-10 servings

3 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves

salt and pepper

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices (I used a little less than that…about 3/4 of a pound. Also, I used smoked andouille sausage)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons butter (she calls for margarine, but come on, people…go for the good stuff)

1 large onion, chopped

8 cloves garlic, minced

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems and leaves removed, coarsely chopped, plus chopped leaves for garnish

4 cups hot water

5 beef bouillon cubes

1 (14-oz) can stewed tomatoes with juice

2 cups sliced okra (she calls for frozen, but I had PLENTY of fresh)

4 green onions, sliced, white and green parts

1/2 pound small shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked

1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides and remove. Add the sausage and cook until browned, then remove. Sprinkle the flour over the oil, add 2 tablespoons of butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until brown, about 10 minutes. Let the roux cool.

2. Return the Dutch oven to low heat and melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Add the onion, garlic, green pepper and celery and cook for 10 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to taste and the 1/4 bunch parsley. Cook, while stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Add 4 cups hot water and bouillon cubes, whisking constantly. Add the chicken and sausage. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add tomatoes and okra. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Just before serving add the green onions, shrimp, and chopped parsley. I like to serve gumbo over jasmine rice. It would also be great with some nice crusty bread.

Pear Galette

Pear Galette after baking2I’m gonna make this short and sweet, folks. Never make a pie again. Seriously. And this is coming from a pie-aholic. I LOVE pie. I love apple pie, pumpkin pie, peach pie, blueberry pie. I love ALL pies. And I have to admit, I’ve gotten pretty good at making pies. But I seriously never have to make one again, because I have discovered the galette. Easy. Not messy. You can accidentally put a hole in your crust (not that I ever do that) and it does. not. matter. Galettes are every bit as buttery, fruity, and flaky as pies, but with half the work. Glenn and I even might have said, just under our breaths, that we might perhaps possibly like this better (GASP!) than a pie!! AHH!

 

 

Kiefer Pears

These pears (which are, as best as we can tell, Kiefer Pears) came from my brother-in-law’s property. They’ve been growing there for years and they are absolutely wonderful for baking. He does not do a thing to them all year: no fertilizing, no pest control, nuthin’, and they come out perfect. I’m sure you could use any pears for this recipe, but if you can find some Kiefer Pears, you won’t be sorry. Do not pass GO, do not collect 2oo dollars. Go make this now. NOW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pear Galette--Rolled out dough

 Keifer Pears, Sliced

  Pear Galette before baking

Pear Galette after baking

  

Pear Galette, adapted from Martha Stewart

Martha’s recipe serves 8, but I adapted it to serve 2. We ate every last bite of this galette, so if you have more than two, you should probably double it.

All-purpose flour, for work surface

1/2 recipe Pate Brisee (see below)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup granulated sugar

pinch of salt

2 large ripe pears, sliced quite thinly. It’s up to you how much crunch you want left in them

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg

sugar for sprinkling (about a tablespoon)

3 tablespoons homemade caramel or pear syrup (the first time I made this, I had homemade caramel left over, so I used that. The second time I made it I had no caramel, but I did have some pear syrup from my father-in-law’s pear preserves. I just drizzled it on top. It was excellent. Martha Stewart’s recipe tells you to heat up some apricot jam, strain it, and brush it over the galette. That sounds great too, but I’d loose the straining part–why make it hard on yourself.) 🙂

 

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

2. Sprinkle work surface with flour. Roll out dough to a 14-inch round, about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 hour.

3. In a bowl, mix together cornstarch, sugar and salt. Add pear slices and toss until evenly coated. Mound pear mixture on top of dough, leaving a 4-inch border all the way around. Fold dough over pear mixture, overlapping where necessary and gently pressing to adhere the folds. Transfer galette to refrigerator and let chill, 20-30 minutes (yeah, right…I was too hungry to do this last step).

4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, beat egg with some water. Brush edges of dough with egg, and springle edges (or the entire thing!) with sugar. Dot top of galette with butter. Transfer to oven and bake until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 45 minutes (you might check on this and dab up any pear liquid that seeps out onto the parchment so it won’t burn. Pears are VERY juicy).

5. Remove galette from oven and drizzle with caramel, syrup, or apricot jam.

 

Pate Brisee (Pie Dough), from Martha Stewart

Makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9- 10-inch pies.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8-10 seconds (or, just use a pastry cutter, which I did because my food processor is broken and never to return)

2. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process for more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: if it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time (or, use a fork, like the girl with the broken food processor did.)

3. Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least an hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month (or for the next day, which is when I made this galette again).

Goat Cheese-Stuffed Red Peppers

Red Peppers

These beauties are called Lipstick Peppers. They are sexy, aren’t they? Red, lucious, puckered and ready for a mammoth, sumptuous smootch. And I am, indeed, completely head-over-heels in love with them.  My husband often brings these home from the farm along with a similar variety called Carmen Peppers. Both have more sweet flavor than a basic red bell pepper, though you could easily use bell peppers for this recipe instead.

Just like any person you love, the first thing you’ll want to do to these peppers is change them. (Insert sarcastic emoticon here.) To make these peppers even better than they ever thought they could be, stuff them with the uber-lucious cheese of all cheeses–goat cheese–and serve them alongside a juicy, medium-rare cheeseburger. The goat cheese and peppers are alternately creamy, tangy, and sweet and go perfectly with a savory burger. I love this combination so much, I’ve actually thought of putting the stuffed peppers right on top of the hamburger. Maybe next time. Let’s not go overboard, okay? We’ll want to keep some excitement in the relationship for when things get a little boring later on.

 

 Stuffed peppers before cooking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuffed Peppers with Hamburger 3

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

These peppers would go perfectly with any beef dish, or just eat them by themselves for a great vegetarian meal that is quite filling on its own. Either way, the combination of goat cheese, bread crumbs, garlic, and olive oil makes any relationship palatable.

 

Goat Cheese Stuffed Red Peppers

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

1.5-2 oz goat cheese (I love Belle Chevre)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 medium red peppers (I use Carmen or Lipstick peppers, but you could use any type of red peppers for this. Just remember that larger red bell peppers will require about twice the filling)

 

Slice peppers in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and ribs.

Mix the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl.

Stuff each pepper not too tightly, but not too loosely (I usually heap the stuffing a bit).

Place stuffing side up on a parchment- or aluminum-lined cookie sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes on 375 degrees, or until the stuffing starts to brown.

Vegetable Burritos with Red Pepper Cheese Spread

Fresh Veggies from JVUF

Some women get flowers. I get vegetables.

 

Pink Beauty Tomatoes, Yellow Straight Squash, Zephyr Squash, and Orient Express Eggplant

I’m totally fine with that. Because I’m a vegetable geek, that’s why. Especially when the vegetables are Pink Beauty tomatoes, Zephyr squash (that’s the two-toned variety above), Orient Express eggplant and Cherokee Purple tomatoes (these actually have a purple hue to them). Their names are so lovely, it’s hard to think of them as just tomatoes, squash, and eggplant.

How many of these things can I stuff into one meal without dinner being called “Pile O’ Vegetables with Vegetables on the Side”? Well, here’s a case in point. The other night I made vegetable burritos using eggplant and squash, but instead of just plain ol’ cheese, I used a red pepper cheese spread I made a couple of nights before. The spread is really a dip, and I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It’s great as a dip, but I liked it even better spread out on a flour tortilla to rest my sweet veggies upon (they are high-maintenance veggies). Another note about the dip: the recipe on Smitten Kitchen calls for just red bell peppers, but my husband brought home hot red peppers (Sahuaro peppers), so that made for a really spicy kick that was great with the vegetables and flour tortilla. If you don’t want the extra spice, just use red bell peppers.

 Red pepper cheese spread

 Essentials: sea salt and a glass of wine

  Sauteeing Squash and Eggplant

 

I used the Pink Beauty tomatoes to make a very simple salsa with onions, a couple of small jalapenos from my own garden, lime juice, salt, and pepper. You could throw some garlic in there too if you like.

 

I'd gladly trade you my bone for just a tablespoon of salsa

I'd gladly trade you my bone for just a tablespoon of salsa

 

Add some canned black beans, and you’ve got yourself a burrito-type thing. A delicious burrito-type thing! Maybe not exactly what you’d get in Mexico, but if it’s good, who needs authenticity, right? I think the red pepper spread really made these excellent burritos. Also, the fresh sweetness of the tomatoes was a nice compliment to the savory eggplant and squash.

 

Blog Grilled Veggie Burritos with red pepper cheese spread

 

Veggie Burritos with Red Pepper Cheese Spread

Makes enough for 2-3 large burritos

Olive oil

Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

1 medium squash (or zucchini), cut into 1 inch peices

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1 inch peices

A small can of seasoned black beans (you can use plain black beans too. They won’t be quite as flavorful, but they’ll have less sodium.)

Flour tortillas (burrito sized)-I use Mission Flour Tortillas, though the number of Mexican grocery stores in my neighborhood is so high that it is really a crime for me to be using store-bought. Shame on me.  

Salsa (see recipe below or use salsa from a jar)

Red pepper cheese spread (see recipe below or use some cheddar or monterey jack cheese instead)

 

Sprinkle the eggplant and squash with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Before I do anything else, I cut the eggplant and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. I let the eggplant sit for about 15 minutes. The salt actually takes the bitterness out of the eggplant–which is generally the thing that most people don’t like about eggplant. So, do that, and then you can take the time to make the spread or salsa while the eggplant rests.

Make the spread and salsa and warm the beans in a small saucepan on low heat.

Saute the eggplant and squash in some olive oil over medium-high heat for about 5-8 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want your vegetables. I like them semi-crunchy, but browned nicely on the outside. If you like them a bit more tender, turn down the heat and saute for a few more minutes.

Meanwhile, microwave the flour tortillas for about 30 seconds each. I usually microwave each one separately (mainly because there are only two of us), but you could also warm them in the oven or in the microwave all at the same time; just follow the directions on the package.

Spread about 2-3 tablespoons of the red pepper cheese spread onto each tortilla.  

Spoon about a 1/4 cup of salsa onto each tortilla

Spoon about a 1/4 cup of beans onto each tortilla

Place the vegetables on top

Fold the tortilla. I fold the bottom up like a diaper (I know, that is an icky analogy, but don’t think too hard about it, okay?), then I fold each side in like I’m wrapping up my little burrito to go out into cold weather (um, just fold it however works. eh hem…moving on)

 

for the salsa

1 tomato, chopped

1/4 cup onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, minced

juice of 1/2 a lime

1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)

1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro (if desired)

Combine all the above. Allow salsa to sit for a few minutes so the flavors marry (and forever live happily ever after). Again, if you don’t like anything too spicy, just leave out the jalapeno.

 

for the red pepper cheese spread

Got this recipe from Smitten Kitchen

False Start

To those of you who subscribed to this blog and, who knows, may have even gotten slightly interested in it…or posted a comment…or have been waiting more than a full year for the next post…er, I’m sorry. I’m calling it a false start, a fumble, a fault. Let’s try this again.

See Kelsey Cook and Maybe Sometimes Mess Up Cooking

See Kelsey cook and maybe sometimes mess up cooking

Since my last post (I won’t say when that was; it’s just embarrassing), there has been one major change in my life. My husband, Glenn, has left the architecture field for one a little more, um, green, shall we say. He is now an organic farmer with Jones Valley Urban Farm, here in Birmingham. Although just slightly less profitable (eh hem) than architecture, farming does give this blog a new focus, which is finding something to do with the wonderful produce he brings home each week. Believe me, I love being paid in cherry tomatoes and okra, but let’s face it…for anyone who has ever participated in a CSA or who has a friend with a VERY productive garden, week after week of squash, collard greens, or eggplant can just get boring. Or maybe boring isn’t the word…maybe it’s simply overwhelming. It’s difficult enough thinking of new things to cook for your family, now try to cook the same thing for your family over and over again. Yeah, you won’t get any complaints at all, right? Um, no.

Glenn and Forks Sellin' Veggies at Mt. Laurel Farmer's Market

Glenn and Forks sellin' veggies at Mt. Laurel Farmer's Market

When I say that Glenn is getting paid in vegetables, I’m really quite serious. As an organic farmer, the food he brings home IS part of his pay–it has to be! So, that food becomes the focus of our meals–anything we buy compliments the fresh vegetables that, figuratively, extend his paycheck. So, despite the loss of income, I do still shop at Whole Foods and buy the occasional proscuitto, salmon filet, or expensive bleu cheese, but all are used sparingly, to heighten the taste of what has been grown by my husband, in the thick red clay of Alabama.

Proscuitto

Face it, veggies are good, but proscuitto is delicious!

Whether you live in Alabama or elsewhere, I hope the recipes and stories I share here will help you eat more vegetables in more ways; experiment with food, even if it doesn’t always work (believe me, I’ve served many a mediocre or just plain bad dinner more than once a few times); or just help you extend the food you get from your garden, your CSA box, your overly productive neighbor, or your market.

What to do with Quince?

When my husband and I moved into our home two years ago, these quince were not doing so well. With a little love they are now blooming like crazy. They bloom in late winter, but their fruit is not ready to pick until fall. Last year these bushes produced a total of about 6 quince fruits. Quince have the consistency of an apple, but are apparently very bitter unless cooked. I say “apparently” because I never got around to trying them last year. I have promised myself to try one this year. I think I’ll make a quince tatain with puff pastry.

The color of these quince looks like a bridesmaid dress I once wore. I like the color on the quince much better.

These particular quince are the “bush” variety (as opposed to the tree variety) and are quite small–about the size of a plum.

The fruit from these quince are a light apple-green color