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Friday, September 03, 2010

Double Secret Grilled Vegetables


Sort of like double secret probation right?  This recipe is from my friend Robin and it is, as she says, "killer delish."  It has two secret ingredients that make it so good.  Secret ingredient number one:
really, what isn't good with blue cheese on it?

Secret ingredient number two:

Not so secret anymore!

I started with some yellow squash from our garden - they probably should have been picked a few days ago but it's been busy and with the CSA I've had a lot of produce on hand.  But I didn't want them to go to waste so that's what I used.
The recipe, as I made it, is as follows:

Grilled Vegetables with Double Secret Sauce

3 large yellow squash*
1 nectarine or peach, thinly sliced
1 red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar, plus extra for marinading
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for marinading and sauteing
1 tablespoon good quality blue cheese (I used Pt. Reyes blue cheese)

Slice the squash into rounds about 1/4" thick.  Toss with some balsamic and olive oil to marinade while you make the sauce.  For the sauce, saute the finely diced onion in a bit of olive oil until the onions soften and just barely begin to brown.  Then add in the 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the blue cheese.  Stir to combine and melt the cheese...keep warm.

Spray a grill pan with oil and heat up on the grill (Robin recommends this pan - I have one just like it but it's flat and it works well too).  Add the veggies and cook over medium high heat for a few minutes and then lower the heat to medium.   When the vegetables are about halfway done, add the sliced nectarine.  Continue grilling, tossing occasionally so that everything gets evenly cooked.  When they are done, toss with the balsamic sauce.  

*Note on veggies:  Robin says you can use just about any veggie just try to keep them a consistent size.  I made it once with a big mix of veggies and it was very good - use what you have!

We eat a lot of grilled vegetables and I love how this recipe, with its two secret ingredients, really change things up.  Thanks Robin :-)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Terra Bella Family Farm CSA: week fourteen



Wow.  So hard to believe that we are fourteen weeks into the CSA.  It's one thing to have this vague feeling that time is going quickly but it's another to be keeping track like this!  The CSA newsletter said they had a lot of tomatoes and they weren't kidding...the tomatoes are varied, beautiful and incredibly good.  This weeks share included:

Swiss chard
parsley or basil
onions
squash or cucumbers
strawberries
sweet peppers
Bibane roasted pepper and herb bread

I am attempting to participate in NaBloPoMo this month....this month's theme is ART.  So we'll see how I can tie that in!  Of course I think a lot of food is art just on its own - and if you play with the pictures and mess up some pixels you get a pretty piece of tomato art ;-)




Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Cauliflower Curry



Probably not the greatest picture ever taken but such a simple-to-make dinner that I wanted to share.  I know I've confessed before how much I love my crockpot.  There's nothing better than coming home to a dinner that's ready to go.  It is awesome in the summer too because we often have very hot days but the evenings can be quite breezy and cool once the fog from the bay rolls across the hills.  So it's hot enough that you don't want to be at the stove but by dinner time something warm and comforting sounds really good.  That's how this came about.  I had some beautiful cauliflower from the CSA and was in the mood for some kind of curry or stew to go on rice.  But I was really not in the mood for recipe searching, modify and shopping.  So I gathered a few simple ingredients, dumped them in and crossed my fingers :-)  I used a Thai red curry paste but the resulting dish was more like an Indian curry.   Since we couldn't decide, dh declared it Burmese.  Whatever, it really took less than five minutes to get it into the crockpot and then I just let it cook all day.  Along with some brown rice in the rice cooker we had a delicious dinner with minimal effort.

Cauliflower Curry

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (don't make them too small, they break down quite a bit)
1 lb. yellow split peas, rinsed and picked over
 14oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
32 ounces vegetable broth
14oz can light coconut milk
2 tablespoons red curry paste

Toss it all into the crockpot and cook on high for 5 hours then reduce to "keep warm" setting until ready to eat (this works best if you have a crockpot you can program).  Season with salt to taste. 
 Serve over brown rice.

We ate this with plain yogurt on the side and lots of different spicy mango and hot pickle relishes.  You have to read the labels but there are red curry pastes out there that don't have any fish/shrimp in them.  I believe that the Thai Kitchen red curry paste is both vegan and gluten free.

We're gearing up for someone to head back to school - shopping, packing - and this someone also got a new stick (you know, the essential back to school supplies!)





Monday, August 30, 2010

Calzone with swiss chard, olives and capers


So after all my bellyachin' about the weather last week do you want to know what I made for dinner on that very hot day?  Calzone. In a 450 degree oven.  Was it hot?  Yes, very much.  Was it worth it?  Again, yes, very much.  At the CSA pick up they often have a bonus box - a selection of some of their more abundant produce you can take for free to go with your weekly share.  At the last pick up I chose a beautiful bunch of swiss chard - I love the color of the stems.  While washing the chard I came across a ladybug (after already soaking everything in water).  Hallie quickly went into rescue mode and took the ladybug outside to try to get it to "fly away home" (here's hoping her house wasn't on fire and her children weren't alone - remember that lovely childhood rhyme???)

This calzone goes together super quickly if you can get ahold of some pre-made pizza dough (I get it at Trader Joe's).  Homemade pizza dough isn't difficult - I make it all the time - but sometimes I just want something that's ready to go  :-)  I really love the combination of walnut, olives and capers in this:


Swiss Chard Calzone


1 lb package fresh pizza dough (I use Trader Joe's)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch swiss chard, washed well and coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 oz shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped kalamata olives
1 tablespoon capers
1-2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar (I used a fig balsamic)
salt and pepper

Heat oven to 450. Divide the pizza dough into 4 pieces and let rest while you
prepare the filling.  Heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in saute
pan with red pepper flakes and garlic. 
 When garlic is fragrant add chard to
pan, toss with tongs occasionally, until tender - about 5-7 minutes.  Put
the chard in a bowl and add the cheeses, walnuts, olives and capers -
stir to combine.  Drizzle with balsamic and season with salt and pepper
to taste, mix well.  On a floured board, form each section of dough into
a circle - about 8 inches diameter - place the filling on half of each circle,
leaving about a 1 inch border. Wet the edges of the dough with water and
fold the dough over, crimp with a fork.  Spray a baking sheet with olive oil
and carefully place each calzone onto the sheet.  Bake for 16-20 minutes
until browned.  Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Adapted from recipe for Escarole Calzone in
 Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Terra Bella Family Farm CSA: week thirteen


Let me first get this out of the way - it is hotter than a motherfather around here and it makes it very hard to get anything done.  I've got all this beautiful food and not a lot of energy to do anything with it (well except that amazing looking focaccia, we mustered up the strength to eat that up straight away).  I have plans for everything - just hope for promised return to cooler weather.  We are doing a repeat of the tomato and goat cheese salad (again) - that, I can handle.  I've come across some really fantastic looking tomato recipes but right now we are really happy just having this one in rotation.  This week's share included:

cherry tomatoes
heirloom tomatoes
summer squash (I chose zucchini because we are hours away from a yellow squash onslaught in the garden)
cucumbers (love those lemon cucumbers!)
basil
yellow peaches
white nectarines
tomato basil focaccia bread

This afternoon I am staying indoors with the AC on, trying to get some work done as well as researching washing machines (ours died).  Hal and I cooled off a bit this afternoon with this lovely concoction - espresso blended with ice and chocolate soy milk - yum.
 But I'm not kidding about the heat - I snapped this yesterday driving home from the CSA pick up (don't worry, I pulled over...)

I love summer but I am totally ready for fall!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Grilled Summer Squash Tacos


Recently I was craving Mexican food (ha - recently - I'm always craving Mexican food).  I had several summer squash from the CSA so I decided those would make a good filling for some tacos.  I really wanted roasted vegetables but it was just too hot to use the oven.  Usually when I grill vegetables I use a special pan for grilling that has little holes so the vegetables don't fall through - but I wanted to make these in a pretty small dice.  So I took a chance on an idea.   I started with two patty pan squash, one zucchini plus a yellow squash from our garden
I cut these into a small dice along with a red onion and some sweet peppers (all from the CSA).  These were tossed with some salt and pepper and sprayed with a bit of olive oil.

I picked out an older baking sheet (not a flat one - one with sides), sprayed it with olive oil and then put it on the grill, turned the flame on high and closed the lid.  Once the pan got really hot I tossed the vegetables on it and let them cook - stirring occasionally.  It worked great!  Not quite the same as flame grilled but they still had a unique, grilled flavor and best of all, no hot kitchen.
I warmed the corn tortillas on the grill as well and then topped them with the grilled vegetables, reduced fat cheddar, diced avocado, salsa verde, lettuce and some tomatoes from our garden.  They were awesome.  Totally fulfilled that taco craving but also satisfied my desire for a healthy meal.  

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Spinach Lasagna



In my last post I mentioned our trip to my friend's cabin.  When we are up there we tend be out during the day and then home in the evenings.  So lunch often finds us grabbing a bite to eat in town (or up at the ski lodge depending on the time of year) but by dinner time everyone is ready to get comfortable for a night of games, movies and stargazing.  I decided to bring up lasagna for the first night so we wouldn't have to go to the store or spend much time in the kitchen.  This recipe is one that has become a favorite.  The original recipe that I work from is one for Sausage, Cheese and Basil Lasagna from Bon Appetit, February 2000.  I have modified it over time to be vegetarian, more spinach than basil but very, very good.  I use finely chopped mushrooms to mimic the sausage flavor - in fact the youngest guest (who hates mushrooms) loved the "sausage lasagna."

Spinach Lasagna

Sauce Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 oz. crimini mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 large onion, diced
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes with added puree 
1 14oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)

Lasagna ingredients:
18 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese*
5 ounces grated paremsan
1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves
16 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 15 ounce container, plus one cup, part-skim ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
16 no-boil lasagna noodles
non-stick oil spray

First you have to make the "sausage."  Combine the finely chopped mushrooms with the fennel seed, red pepper and sea salt.

Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high heat and add the mushroom mixture and saute until the mushrooms have released their moisture and the mushrooms are browned and look like crumbled sausage
Transfer the mushroom mixture to a bowl.  Add the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and add the onions and garlic.  Cook over medium-high heat until they are soft and start to brown just a little bit.  Add in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, oregano and mushroom mixture.  Bring the sauce to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes to blend the flavors.  Season with salt, pepper and more crushed red pepper to taste.

For the filling put the basil leaves in your food processor and pulse to finely chop basil.  Add ricotta, 6 ounces of the mozzarella (about 1 1/2 cups packed), 2 ounces parmesan (about 3/4 cup), egg, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Squeeze out all of the excess liquid from your thawed spinach (I like to put it in a clean cotton dishtowel and wring it out) and put in the processor bowl.  Pulse a few more times to blend the spinach with the cheese but keep it a bit chunky.

Preheat the oven to 375.  To assemble the lasagna spread 1 1/4 cups sauce in a 13x9x2 glass baking dish.  Arrange four of the no-boil noodles across the bottom - they may overlap just slightly but it will be okay.  If they overlap a LOT (if your pan is slightly smaller) then just use three.  Drop 1 1/2 cups (generously filled) over the noodles and spread evenly to cover.  It is easier to use your hands for this so that the noodles don't move around. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup parmesan.  Repeat layers of sauce, noodles, filling and cheese 2 more times.
 
Top with the remaining 4 noodles.  Spoon the remaining sauce on top of the noodles and sprinkle with the remaining cheeses. Spray a large piece of foil with non-stick spray and cover the lasagna.

Bake lasagna at 375 for 40 minutes.  Carefully uncover.  Increase oven temperature to 400.  Bake until the noodles are tender, the sauce bubbles thickly and the edges of the lasagna are golden and puffed, about 20 minutes.  Transfer to work surface and let it stand 15 minutes before serving.

*Note about the mozzarella.  This recipe calls for 18 oz of shredded mozzarella and most packages of pre-shredded or whole mozzarella are sold in either 8, 12 or 16 oz packages.  I used a 16 oz. package of shredded cheese and then a chunk of mozzarella fresca (not so fresca though - it was in the freezer)  for the top.  I'm sure the recipe would survive with just 16 ounces.

There were eight of us and this served everyone generously for dinner and several of us for lunch.
Happy campers!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Terra Bella Family Farm CSA: week twelve


Another amazing CSA share this week.  I was really happy to see the yellow cauliflower again!  This week's share included:

2 baskets of mixed cherry tomatoes
heirloom tomatoes
green butterhead lettuce
summer squash 
eggplant (or cucumbers but we are inundated from our garden right now)
choice of peppers
chard
corn
chocolate zucchini muffin

We loved the tomato salad that I made last week, so much so that I made it again.  The corn was fantastic - I prepared it in our usual way, Persian style.   The chocolate zucchini muffin?  Well, it was the first to go ;-)

It's that time of the summer where everything is looking a little droopy and tired (including me!) - even though I'm watering in the afternoons as well the morning on those really hot days.  We are getting a fair amount of tomatoes, lots of cucumbers and the serrano chiles are insane.  I guess the fact that we never went on vacation this summer worked out well for the garden!

We did have a nice little getaway last weekend to my best friend's cabin in the woods.  It's an adorable cabin built by her grandparents many years ago.  You can tell the fun they had building it - their friends would join them on the weekends and this collage wallpaper in the hallway is a testament to the fun they had ;-)

It's right across from the lake

And near the adorable town of Murphys where Ana did her first wine tasting at the Frog's Tooth Vineyard tasting room
We love spending time with these friends - and I love how their daughter looks like she could be one of ours
Great weekend!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tomato, Goat Cheese and Basil Salad


In last week's CSA we received some really beautiful heirloom tomatoes plus a basket of cherry tomatoes.  I picked up a container of fresh mozzarella to do the (always delicious) same ol' thing.  And that would have been the end of that but a friend of mine, Lynn, happened to post a salad on her blog http://mommyporch.blogspot.com/ that made me sit up and take notice.  Not that different from my usual tomato, mozzarella and basil but it had just enough of a twist that I couldn't wait to try it - and as luck would have it I happened to have enough of the ingredients on hand to make it right away.  The recipe was originally published in The Silver Palate cookbook - a mainstay of mine for many years - but I'd never tried this particular recipe.  I think the book is long gone from my shelf (I've pared down considerably over the years) but I'm really happy this one came along.


Tomato, Goat Cheese and Basil Salad

6 large ripe tomatoes, cored, cut into thick slices and then halved

1 medium red onion, halved and sliced thin
½ cup basil chiffonade
¼ cup pitted Nicoise olives, chopped*
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
1/3 cup best quality olive oil
Dash of red wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 ounces goat cheese

Add the tomatoes, onions, basil, olives, parsley, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to a bowl. Stir gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Just before serving, crumble the goat cheese over the salad and gently stir to combine.

*Using what I had from the CSA I basically halved this recipe - I used three tomatoes and a basket of cherry tomatoes, a small red onion and 3.5 ounces of goat cheese. I also used just a teaspoon or so of olive oil and added some capers along with the olives.

We LOVED this salad.  The goat cheese just sort of melted and wow, it was so good.  I can't wait to make it again.  Thanks Lynn!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Terra Bella Family Farm CSA: week eleven



So we've made it halfway!  The CSA runs for 22 weeks and this was week 11.  I love seeing the tomatoes when we get there - such a variety of shapes and colors and sizes.  We love eating them sliced with a smidge of salt and adore them with fresh mozzarella and basil.  Recently I combined our CSA tomatoes with some from our yard and tossed them with a mixture of almost every herb we have - basil, thyme, parsley, mint - finely chopped and a bit of salt. Heaven!  The share this week contained:

1 basket of strawberries
1 basket cherry tomatoes
heirloom tomatoes
green beans (hooray!)
summer squash
cucumbers
hearts of romaine
broccoli
rustic loaf of bread

Such a beautiful food!
insalata caprese -
tomato and mozzarella salad with arugula and pinenuts-
tomatoes, basil and vegan "mozzarella cream" -

The funny thing is, for all my adoration of tomatoes now, there was a time I really didn't like tomatoes.  When I was a kid, tomatoes fell into the "weird texture" category of foods - these were foods that had a flavor I liked but couldn't get past the texture.  Not sure how or when I overcame that little peculiarity but I'm certainly glad I did.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lentil salad with Tomato, Cucumber and Feta


We are entering that stretch of the summer where school is looming on the horizon and all those things we meant to do this summer are quickly getting squeezed in (or set aside for "some day").  Ana's classes begin next week and a lot of Hallie's friends have already left to go back to school.  It just feels...well, different.  Not bad, not good - just different.

I mentioned before that we received lemon cucumbers in our CSA share last week - this salad is where I used them, along with the cherry tomatoes and red onion from our share.  When I got home from picking up the share that day everyone was starving so I need something that could go together quickly.  Hallie and I had just been to the gym so we were looking to have something healthy and not too heavy.  I always have lentils on hand so I decided to throw together a quick lentil salad.  Lentils are great because they don't require any soaking, they cook quickly, they're cheap, they're good for you and so on....while they cooked I did the chopping of the other ingredients and prepared some fruit to go along side.

Lentil Salad with Tomato, Cucumber and Feta

1 lb lentils, picked over and rinsed well
1 lb cucumbers, peeled and diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
white wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Cook lentils according to package directions (mine said 3 cups water to 1 lb lentils - I actually ended up needing a little more).  Cook until tender but not mushy - you want them to hold their shape.  Mine took about 25 minutes.  While lentils are cooking prepare your vegetables and add them to a large salad bowl.  Once lentils are cooked drain any excess water you might have.  If you are planning on serving the salad right away you'll want to cool the lentils.  I spread them out on a large cookie sheet and sprinkled them liberally with white wine vinegar and some sea salt and place them into the refrigerator for a few minutes.

Once the lentils have cooled add them to the salad bowl and toss with the vegetables.  Then add the feta cheese and toss until combined.  At this point it's a matter of taste and adding more vinegar, salt and pepper until it suits you.  I usually use champagne vinegar for this kind of salad but I really don't like the last one I bought - I got it at Berkeley Bowl (and paid a lot more than I usually do - it looked like a nice bottle) but just plain don't like it.  So the white wine vinegar was just right.  It certainly wouldn't hurt to drizzle some olive oil or add some fresh mint or basil to this salad.  But again, the cheese adds enough flavor that I don't think it needs any oil.  We enjoyed this for dinner and it was great leftover for lunch the next day.  

It hasn't been very hot recently so I hope that our garden is getting enough sun!  We got kind of a late start because of some drainage and landscaping work that we did (and by "we" I mean the very nice people we hired to do it).  We typically have hot weather through October so I'm hoping that everything will catch up and be happy.  The usual suspects are growing like crazy:

The hardest part is keeping the grape vine from growing into the fig tree (and the roof).  It makes for a lovely green canopy in the yard but it is a tangled mess when it comes time to prune!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Terra Bella Family Farm CSA: week ten


Boy am I behind this week - but I have a (fairly) good excuse.  Hallie finished her 6 week stint as a circus camp counselor so it was our first week with some time to play.  First, the CSA share this week was:

box of strawberries
box of cherry tomatoes 
heirloom tomatoes
choice of a variety of cucumbers
onions
collard greens
basil
eggplant
leeks
bran muffins

I chose the lemon cucumbers because our own garden cucumbers are starting to really produce.  I usually plant lemon cucumbers but one year our dogs decided they were the best snack ever and would pick them off the vine (yes, we have weird dogs) - but they don't seem to go after the regular cucumbers even though they love them.  So it was a nice treat to have the lemon cucumbers.

We started the week with a hike of the Lafayette Rim Trail .  I love that Hallie not only wants to do this kind of hike but actually wants to do it with us (Ana was in Disneyland celebrating her birthday so she was spared the hot weather hike):

 And to make it even better her best friend came along.

Down side was we went at around 2:30 in the afternoon and it was over 90 degrees.  We are not geniuses.  And this sign is a little deceiving since we walk almost 1/2 a mile uphill from where we park to get to this point:

It was definitely tough going at some points because it was super hot and it is dry and dusty up there - this picture really doesn't capture how steep it is!





But the rewards come when you catch a glimpse of the reservoir



We had some fun with the hills

and finally, that last bit where you remember why this is such a great place to hike