Friday, December 17, 2010

Butternut Squash and Roasted Poblano Casserole

I celebrated Thanksgiving this year with friends in Culver City. Everyone brought a dish. My friend, Mary Beth Puffer, made a fabulous squash and roasted poblano casserole. She said it was a variation of a recipe from the Food and Wine website. Food and Wine gives credit to chef, Julie Robles, at Tavern restaurant.

It's a little work, but so worth the effort. At Thanksgiving it was a hearty side dish, but it makes a rich and beautiful vegetarian entree as well. Here's a version that serves six.

3 large poblano peppers (about 3/4 lb)
1 large butternut squash (about 2 lbs)
4-5 T extra virgin olive oil
3/4 t coarsely chopped thyme
salt and pepper
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1-2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 t coarsely chopped oregano
1/4 C heavy cream
1/3 C sour cream or creme fraiche
2 T finely diced jalapenos
4 oz Monterey Jack or Manchego cheese, shredded
4 oz farmer cheese
toasted pumpkin seeds

1. Roast the poblanos directly over a gas flame or under the broiler until they are charred all over. Transfer them to a bowl. Cover and allow them to cool. When cool, peel, stem, and seed the peppers (compost the discards) and cut the peppers into thin strips.

2. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Peel the squash. Compost the seeds and peels. Cut the squash crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices.

3. Brush the squash slices with 2-3 T olive oil. Spread them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1/2 t thyme, salt and pepper. Roast squash at 400 degrees until tender, about 25 minutes.

4. While squash is roasting, heat 1-2 T olive oil in a deep skillet. Add the onion, garlic, oregano and 1/4 t thyme. Cook over moderate heat until the onion is soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes.

5. Add the roasted poblano strips and cook until very tender, about 5 minutes.

6. Add the heavy cream and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.

7. Remove from the heat and stir in the sour cream or creme fraiche and the jalapenos. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

8. Spoon half of the poblano mixture into a large baking dish. Top with half the butternut squash and half the shredded cheese and farmer cheese. Repeat the same layers.

9. Bake at 425 degrees until the gratin is golden and bubbling, about 20-30 minutes. Let rest for about 10 minutes and sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds before serving.

Mary Beth added 1T of pickled persimmon juice to her casserole. She said it added a little zing. If you don't happen to have pickled persimmon juice, you can try 1-2 t rice vinegar. Stir it into the poblano mixture.



Today's harvest included:

romaine lettuce or cilantro
2 # broccoli or 2 # onions
turnips or beets
cabbage or 3 avocados
cauliflower or 1 # limes
butternut squash
satsuma mandarins
1 # parsnips
1 # potatoes

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cream of Celery Soup

Last week's warm weather was a nice treat, but we're back to winter again. A soothing and warm soup is just the ticket for these cool days. And this soup is super simple to make.

Scrub and peel 1 lb potatoes. Compost the peels. Cut the potatoes in large chunks.

Wash and trim (if necessary) 1 lb celery. Compost any trimmings. Cut the celery in large chunks.

Peel 1/2 medium onion. Compost peel. Cut into large chunks.

Place potatoes, celery, and onion in a medium stockpot. Add 2-3 C vegetable stock, chicken stock or water. Cover tightly. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook until all vegetables are very soft, about 20 minutes.

Cool slightly. Then puree with an immersion blender, in a food processor, or in a regular blender. Stir in additional stock (1-2 C) to achieve desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 1/4 C (or more to taste) heavy cream. Re-heat to hot before serving.

This soup is delicious as is, or you can season it with a little thyme or dill. Lemon thyme is also very nice if you have it.



Friday, December 10, 2010

Thoughts of The Soil Foodweb at pickup today

Ronnie did the honors today, driving to collect the various harvests for our CSA. He picked up all sorts of things, including me from the airport! Thanks Ronnie!

I just got back from Oregon. I spent four days learning about soil biology from scientist Dr. Elaine Ingham. She is a genius, deserves a Nobel Prize. If more farmers adopted her biological approach, icky agrichemicals - and the demand for them - would be vastly reduced. The world doesn't need NPK, it needs B. BIOLOGY. She has data, case studies and proof that good soil biology produces robust, healthy crops. If farmers focused on maintaining that - a soil teeming with a diverse range of carefully farmed microorganisms - then application after application of NPK wouldn't be necessary, nor would tilling or discing. Dr. Elaine Ingham is to Good, what Monsanto is to Evil.

Ingham's Soil Foodweb approach is all I plan to use at our new growing ground in Glassell Park. It's chez Laura and Andrew Avery (and thank goodness for them!) I'm going to feed and monitor the biology in the soil there, grow flowers without adding any blood or bone meal - nothing but compost and compost teas - and log the progress. A new 400 x microscope and Earthfort tea brewer now rank as VITs (Very Important Tools) in my still non-exitent toolshed.

Here's what we had at CSA pickup today:

Tierra Miguel Foundation: red kuri, butternut and tuffy squashes; cilantro; oregano; gorgeous carrots; persimmons. Big hug to the team at Tierra Miguel. They've been dealing with some harsh weather conditions that have damaged crops yet they still deliver and always with a smile and friendly warmth. Thank you Erin + team!!

Underwood Family Farms: purple kale, red leaf lettuce, fennel bulb, spaghetti squash, leek, French breakfast radish, artichokes, celery, nappa cabbage.

Weiser Family Farms: Russian Banana potatoes, beets, watermelon radishes, heirloom carrots.

Rancho Santa Cecilia: mandarin satsumas, limes

Silver Lake Farms: pea shoot microgreens and red and yellow chard microgreens mix.

Thanks everyone and see you soon!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Green Chile Pork Stew

I picked up my CSA box yesterday along with my pork package from Silver Lake Farms' pig share program. This week's box had just about everything I needed to make a fabulous green chile pork stew!

I cut my stewing pork (about 3 lbs) into about 1-inch chunks and browned them in a little olive oil. While they were browning, I chopped some onion, carrots, parsnips, celery, and 1 clove of garlic. I sauteed the veggies and garlic in a big stew pot, using a little more oil. Then I added the browned pork, a large can of green chile sauce, a can of water, a bay leaf, a little salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. I simmered this stew on very low heat, covered for the first hour and partially covered for the second hour.

When the meat was barely tender, I added big chunks of potatoes and finished cooking until the meat was completely tender (another 30-45 minutes). I'm taking this stew to a holiday pot-luck this evening.

I like to make my own green chile sauce from scratch, fire-roasting green anaheim chiles (plus 1-2 serranos for heat), then peeling, pureeing, and cooking the anaheims with the serranos, garlic, cumin, bay leaf, oregano, salt and pepper. Sometimes I add a little epazote, too. This sauce freezes well. But I didn't have any home-made sauce, so I used a can. Either way, it's a hearty and delicious meal.



Dilly Mac 'n Cheese

The minute I saw that big bunch of fresh dill in my CSA box I couldn't wait to get home and make one of my favorite mac 'n cheese variations. With just three main ingredients, this recipe is so easy you can whip it up in a few minutes more than it takes to boil pasta.

Dilly Mac 'n Cheese makes a great vegetarian main dish; just add a salad. Omnivores might like it as a side dish with chicken or fish. It's a particularly good complement for lemony flavors so you might want to use a lemon vinaigrette on your salad or lemon pepper or a lemony piccata sauce on your chicken or fish. Whatever you decide to do, I'm sure you're going to enjoy this quick and tasty dish.

1 lb orzo pasta
1 large bunch fresh dill
3/4 - 1 lb feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a pot of water to boil and cook orzo per directions on package.

2. While waiting for the water to boil (or while orzo is cooking), trim the stems off the dill and compost them. Chop the dill finely and set aside.

3. Crumble the feta and set aside.

4. When the orzo is done cooking, quickly drain it well. Do not rinse. Return it to the hot pan (but don't turn on the heat). Add the crumbled feta and chopped dill. Stir until the cheese melts and everything is well mixed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

You can use a different pasta shape if you'd like, but I find that orzo works especially well for this dish.

I like this dish on the cheese-y side, but you can add more or less cheese, or dill for that matter, to taste.

Feta cheese can be somewhat salty so taste before adding salt.

You can doll up this dish by adding chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Sometimes I grate a little bit of lemon zest into it for extra zing. In the summertime when my garden is overrun with zucchini squash, I'll thinly slice and saute some zucchini and stir it in with the cheese and dill.



Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sapote !

Last summer, Ronnie came to Los Angeles as a w.w.o.o.f 'er (world wide opportunities on organic farms). He stayed at Edendale Farm just up the road, and volunteered in exchange for a place to kip. Just before returning to the East Coast, he helped me out for a day in Glassell Park, prepping soil and beds at our new growing ground. He worked on a couple of farms in Vermont, and kept in touch.

Ronnie really likes L.A., being outdoors, working with plants and soil, growing food. So now he's back! Helping out at Silver Lake Farms, especially with the CSA. Thank you so much Ronnie!

This week, Ronnie went to Underwood in Moorpark and brought back:

Butter lettuce
Purple carrots
Golden beets
Japanese turnips
Valencia oranges
We were supposed to get broccoli but, well, we didn't!

From Winnetka Farms: Italian heirloom salad greens

From Weiser Family Farms: onions, parsnips, Russian banana bakers

From Tierra Miguel: dill, cilantro, carrots, beets, chard

From Rancho Santa Cecilia: Sapotes and avocados.

Anyone got a recipe for sapotes?

Bruce and Rachel at Silver Lake Farms supplied the most beautiful mustard microgreens. Mild spicy and good-looking with their green leaves blushing with burgundy flecks.

Shelley will post a recipe soon.

Have a lovely weekend and see you soon.


PS. We did it! We controlled our own food source !! More on that later.