Friday, February 25, 2011

Leek and Cheese Tart

It's a cold and rainy weekend, in other words, a perfect weekend for staying in and cooking something delicious. That fat leek in today's box made me think of Leek and Cheese Tart. It's easier than quiche and just as tasty.

There are only 3 basic steps to making a fabulous Leek and Cheese Tart:
1. Make the crust
2. Saute the leeks
3. Grate the cheese.
Then you just assemble and bake.

You'll need a tart pan for this recipe. Don't use a pie pan instead. Pie pans are deeper than the shallower tart pan. If you don't have a tart pan, I suggest using a cookie sheet and making this tart flat, like a pizza.

1. Start by making a pie crust. I use a very simple recipe:

1-1/2 C flour
1 t salt
1 cold stick butter, cut into pieces
ice water

Pre-heat over to 400 degrees. Mix the salt into the flour until well distributed. Cut the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like little pebbles. Add enough ice water until the mixture just barely comes together. Form the dough into a ball. Knead once or twice and roll out on a floured surface.

A few tips on pie crust: Work quickly with cold ingredients. You don't want the butter to melt (until the crust bakes). You can use a food processor to mix up the dough; just be careful not to over mix. I love using a pastry cloth, which is just a piece of canvas, to roll out dough. The dough never sticks (because the cloth is saturated with flour); and it's simple to turn the rolled dough into a pie or tart pan.

Roll the dough out to fill a 10-inch tart pan. Press the dough into the tart pan. Poke a few small "pin-holes" in the crust with the tines of a fork. Bake the empty crust for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven. Set aside. Turn the oven heat down to 375.

2. Prepare the leeks while the crust cooks: Wash the leek(s) and thinly slice the white portion of the leek. You can use some of the lighter green portion, too, but the dark green part is less flavorful and much tougher. Saute the sliced leeks in a little butter, stirring occasionally, until very soft. You can season them with a little salt and pepper, if you'd like, but remember that cheese is pretty salty.

3. While the leeks are cooking, grate the cheese. I particularly like using a good Gruyere for this tart. Sometimes I mix in some Emmenthaler, too. However, you can use any hard, meltable cheese that you'd like. You'll need about 2 C of grated cheese for a 10-inch tart.

Assemble and bake: Mix the sauteed leeks with the grated cheese and spread evenly over the partially baked crust. Return to the oven and bake an additional 35-40 minutes. The crust and cheese should be golden.

If the cheese seems to be burning, you can cover the tart loosely with a piece of foil.

Omnivores might like to add some chopped ham, prosciutto, or cooked and crumbled bacon to the cheese and leek mix. You can change the character of this tart entirely by using a combination of cheddar and jack cheese and stirring in some cooked and crumbled chorizo into the filling. Feel free to get creative.

This tart is delicious hot, room temperature, or cold. Mix up a green salad with today's lovely head of lettuce and microgreens and you have a wonderful meal.

Today's bounty included:

From Underwood: celery, sugar snap peas, cauliflower, broccoli, artichokes, leek, lettuce, and cilantro.

Radish, mustard, and arugula micro-greens from Silver Lake Farms.

Satsuma mandarins and Hass avocadoes from Rancho Santa Cecilia.

And thanks to shareholder Anselm for donating Yuzu fruit from his tree.



Friday, February 18, 2011

Candied Tangerine Peel

pictured left - sapote fruit, and below that, celery root/celeriac at pickup today.

Citrus is abundantly in season right now as evidenced by the weekly inclusion of tangerines and oranges in our CSA box. The fruit and juice are delicious. But don't throw away those peels. You can make wonderful candy from them.

Candied orange peel is probably most common, but I like to candy tangerine and grapefruit peel, too. The technique is the same; and it's so simple. It's a fun thing to do on a rainy afternoon.

Most recipes call for the fruit to be cut into quarters, the flesh removed, and the peel (pith attached) cut into strips. This is a fine way to prepare your fruit. However, I like to peel the fruit by hand, pulling off odd-shaped pieces. I also like to remove some of the pith with a sharp knife. Whatever you decide to do, you can't go wrong.

Candied citrus peel is delicious all by itself. It can chopped and added to fruit salad, yogurt, breakfast cereal, or your favorite muffin recipe. It can be used decoratively on cakes and other baked goods. Dip the candied peel in tempered chocolate and let it harden for an elegant treat.

It takes a day or two for the peel to fully dry. Wait until the peel is dry to dip in chocolate.

Start with about 1-2 C of peel. Place in a medium saucepan. Add water to the pan to cover peels completely and have about an inch of water on top. Bring to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes. Drain. Rinse well and drain again.

Then bring 3 C of granulated suagr and 3 C of water to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the peel. Return to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the peel is very soft, about 45 minutes.

Remove pan from the heat. Drain the peel and toss in 1 C granulated sugar until peel is well-coated. Separate any pieces that stick together and place candied peel on a cooling rack set inside (or over) a cookie sheet. The rack allows for air circulation so the peel will dry on all sides. Let stand for 1-2 days until the peel drys.

This weeks harvest included:

From Underwood: celery root, 1 bunch purple kale, 1 bunch golden beets, 1# tangerines, 1 bunch tatsoi, 1 Napa cabbage, 1 bunch spinach, and 1 butter lettuce, 1 Pinkerton avocado

From Rancho Santa Cecilia: 1 Bacon avocado, and 1# sapote fruit.

From Weiser Family Farms: 1# Russian banana potatoes.

From Silver Lake Farms: radish, arugula and mustard microgreens.



Friday, February 11, 2011

Carrot Raisin Muffins

left, SLF mustard microgreens + Mark Stambler's freshly baked CSA loaves delivered to pickup by Erik Knutzen on his bicycle.

Carrots are so naturally sweet, it's hard to believe they're good for you, too. Even simply prepared steamed carrots, glazed or mashed, can taste practically like dessert. That's probably why you find carrots included in many sweet baked goods.

I particularly like carrot muffins because they are both tasty and versatile. You can serve them up hot out of the oven with breakfast or lunch; or you can spoon a little orange glaze or spread a little cream cheese frosting on top and turn them into a relatively healthy dessert.

Another thing I like about carrot muffins is that you can add raisins or dried cranberries to the batter and/or nuts such as chopped walnuts or pecans.

Many muffin recipes instruct you to use paper or foil baking cups. While they may lend an attractive professional look to your muffins, they're really just more trash for the landfill, so I recommend greasing your muffin pan well and foregoing the extra paper.

This recipe is adapted from Elizabeth Alston's cookbook, Muffins. She suggests slathering them with honey butter while still warm. Now that sounds delicious!

Carrot Raisin Muffins

For approximately 12 regular-sized muffins:

1-1/2 C flour or 1 C all purpose flour + 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1 T baking powder
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t salt
2 eggs
1/2 C brown sugar
3/4 C milk
4 T (1/2 stick) melted butter
1 C grated carrots
1/2 C raisins
1/2 C coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Pre heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin tin(s).

2. Mix flour(s), baking powder, spices and salt together in a large bowl.

3. In another bowl, whisk eggs and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in milk and melted butter. Then stir in grated carrots, raisins, and nuts.

4. Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and fold until just combined. Do not over-mix.

5. Spoon the batter into prepared muffin tins, filling about 3/4 full. Bake 20-25 minutes or until springy when touched in the center. Turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz pkg cream cheese, cold
4T (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1-1/2 to 2 C confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/2 t vanilla flavoring

Cream the butter and cream cheese together until combined. Gradually add confectioner's sugar beating until smooth. Stir in vanilla.

Spread the frosting with a knife on cooled muffins or pipe out of a pastry bag fitted with a rosette tip.

Orange Glaze

2 C confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/4 C fresh-squeezed orange juice, strained
1/4 t finely grated orange rind

Combine all ingredients and whisk or stir until smooth. Spoon or drizzle over cooled muffins.

Honey Butter

Stir 2-3 T honey into 1 stci slightly softened butter. Re-chill, if desired.

This week's bounty included:

From Underwood Family Farms: 2# broccoli, 1 fennel bulb, 1 bunch Easter radishes, 1 bunch purple carrots, 1 bunch mizuna, 2 bunches spinach, 4# navel oranges, and 1 bunch arugula.

Mustard microgreens from Silver Lake Farms.

From Weiser Family Farms : 1 medium onion and 1 # parsnips.

And from Rancho Santa Cecilia: 2 avocados and 1 # of delicious satsuma mandarins.



Friday, February 4, 2011

Kale and Cannellini Bean Soup

Kale and cannellini beans are a great match. The creamy beans balance the mild bitterness of the kale; and the two contrasting colors - light and dark - make for a visually attractive combination. This hearty soup, based on a Tuscan soup called Ribollita, makes a delicious one-dish meal.

A little advanced planning is needed if you want to start with dried cannellini beans, but the enhanced flavor is worth the extra effort. Canned cannellini beans are a fine, time-saving alternative. Once you've prepared the beans, the soup is a cinch to make.

To start with dried beans: Place 1 C dried cannellini beans in a pot large enough to cover the beans with 3 inches of cold water. That's 3 inches over the beans. Bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Then drain the beans and return them to the pot. Add 5 C water, 1/2 C chopped onion, 2 whole garlic cloves (peeled), 1 bay leaf, and 1/2 T salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 hour, maybe a little longer. Drain the beans, but keep the cooking liquid.

For the soup:
1 T olive oil
1/2 C chopped onion
2 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 C chopped celery
1 C chopped carrots
2-3 C cooked cannellini beans
3 C cooking liquid from the cannellini beans or stock
1 C canned diced Italian tomatoes in juice
1 bay leaf
1 t dried oregano
2-3 C chopped kale
1/4 C grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic for about 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.

2. Add the celery and carrots and cook for about 2 minutes.

3. Add the cannellini beans, cooking liquid or stock, tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano and kale. Simmer partially covered, stirring occassionally, for about 30 minutes or until the soup thickens.

4. Add the cheese and stir until melted and mixed well into the soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a grainy bread.

I like to smash some of the cannellini beans when stirring to thicken the soup. Omnivores might like to add some crumbled Italian sausage, but it's plenty hearty without meat.

Here's what this week's harvest brought us:

Young radish and chard micro-greens from Silver Lake Farms
Satsuma mandarins and Mexican white guavas from Rancho Santa Cecilia
And from Underwood Family Farms: celery, iceberg lettuce, purple kale, white carrots, leeks, French radishes. golden beets, Japanese turnips, and butternut squash.