Friday, December 30, 2011

Carmelized Onion, Potato and Goat Cheese Tarts

Savory tarts are wonderful. You can make them in a wide range of sizes from bite-sized mini-tarts that make nice appetizers to large tarts that you cut in slices to serve. You can make them in any shape you like, and the topping combinations are endless.

The toppings I used for today's recipe include carmelized onions and potatoes. These ingredients require a little advance preparation, but once you have them (and your crust), it takes only a few minutes to assemble and bake the tarts.

Carmelized onions are super delicious and very versatile. In addition to these tarts, carmelized onions add great depth of flavor to many dishes. It takes an hour or so to properly carmelized onions, but you can do this step ahead. Cook up a big batch of carmelized onions and store them in your fridge. They'll keep for about a week. Mix them into mashed potatoes; add them to grilled cheese sandwiches; toss them into an omelet. You'll find myriad uses for them.

To carmelize onions: Peel and slice 2-5 onions thinly lengthwise. Melt 1-2 t butter per onion in a large, heavy skillet over low heat. Add the sliced onions and cook over low heat, stirring regularly, until the onions turn a deep brown color. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

The potatoes I used in this tart were boiled ahead of time, chilled and sliced. It's easier to thinly slice a cold potato. You can cook up the potatoes when you're making this recipe, just allow them to cool before slicing them.

These tarts start with the same pie crust recipe I used last week. But you can use your favorite short pastry crust. I rolled out my crust to approximately 1/4" thickness and cut it with a round, fluted-edge form that's five inches in diameter. This size makes a great individual tart.

I like making flat tarts that I bake on cookie sheets, but you can make this recipe in a tart pan if you prefer. The flat tarts are a little easier, but be sure to let them cool before lifting them off the cookie sheet, as the pastry dough is delicate when it just comes out of the oven.

To make crust for six, five-inch diameter, round individual tarts: Take 7 T cold butter, cut into pieces, plus 1/2 T salt, and 1-1/3 C flour. Put all the ingredients in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut the butter into the flour under it resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in a little ice water and continue to mix until the dough just comes together. Form into a flat disk and refrigerate for 10-30 minutes. You can refrigerate this dough longer, but it might be harder to roll if it's colder.

For six individual tarts:

Crust recipe above (or your favorite crust)
1-2 medium Russian Banana or Fingerling potatoes, boiled and cooled
1 C Carmelized onions, or more to taste
1/2 C crumbled goat cheese
1/2 C washed, dried, and finely sliced fresh arugula

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degree F.

2. Roll out pastry dough 1/4" thick and cut six circles, each five inches in diameter.

3. Divide and spread the carmelized onions over each piece of dough.

4. Slice the potatoes thinly and arrange 2-3 slices over the onions on each tart.

5. Sprinkle a little crumbled goat cheese over each tart.

6. Bake in pre-heated, 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until the edges of the crust are golden.

7. Cool on cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes before lifting off with a metal spatula. Garnish with finely sliced arugula before serving.

Variations: Grated gruyere cheese is a nice alternative to goat cheese. Omnivores may like to add a little cooked and crumbled chorizo to these tarts.

Today's bounty included:

From Underwod Family Farms: Butter lettuce, rainbow chard, sugar snap peas, carrots, candy beets, mizuna, celery, and navel oranges.

From Weiser family Farms: Parsnips, mixed beets, and Russian Banana potatoes.

From Sage Mountain Farm: Salad mix, white and orange carrots, arugula, spaghetti squash, turnips, and Russian kale.

Urban farmer, Russell Wightman, provided the Fuerte avocados from Highland Park.

Happy New Year everyone!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Butternut Squash Pie

Did you know you can make a "pumpkin pie" from butternut squash? In my opinion, butternut squash pie is even better than pumpkin pie because butternut squash is sweeter and creamier than pumpkin.

With a little bit of prep, which you can do in advance, you can make a delicious squash pie filling that you can pour into your favorite pie crust, homemade or store bought.

There are two ways to prepare the squash for a pie filling: bake it or boil it. To bake the squash, cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and place it cut side down on a lightly greased baking sheet in a 350 degree oven until soft, 45-75 minutes depending on the side of the squash. When it's cool enough to handle, scoop out the pulp and mash it, or puree it in a blender or food processor, or put it through a food mill or chinois, or use an immersion blender to turn it into a smooth puree.

To boil it: peel it and cut it into 1-inch chunks. Place the chunks in a saucepan with about 2 inches of water in the bottom. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain well and proceed as above to turn the chunks into a smooth puree. You can do this step in advance and keep the puree in your fridge for up to 3 days before making your pie.

Here's the pie recipe for a 9-inch diameter, 1-1/2 inch deep pie dish:

1-1/2 C pureed butternut squash
1 C evaporated milk
2 eggs
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C white sugar
2 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t salt
1 pie crust (see recipe below if you don't have your own)

1. Mix the squash puree and the evaporated milk together until smooth and combined.

2. Beat the eggs and mix into the squash mixture until combined.

3. Mix in the sugar, spices, and salt and mix until well combined.

4. Pour into an unbaked pie shell and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Then turn down the heat to 350 degrees and bake until a knife inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes longer.

5. Allow pie to cool completely or refrigerate before serving.

Easy Pie Crust for a 9" Pie:
Cut 7 T of cold butter into cubes. Place 1-1/3 C flour and 1/2 t salt in a large bowl or in a food processor. Add the cold, cubed butter. Process or cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or 2 forks until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Process, or cut in, enough ice water until the mixture just comes together. Quickly form the crust into a flat disk and refrigerate for 10 minutes (or longer). Then roll out the crust on a pastry cloth and fit it into the pie dish.

Today's bounty included:

From Underwood Family Farms: lettuce, orange carrots, mizuna, Japanese turnips, purple kale, cilantro, French radishes, tatsoi, butternut squash, avocado, and arugula.

From Weiser Family Farms: German Butterball potatoes.

And from Rancho Santa Cecilia: Satsuma mandarins.

Happy Holidays Everyone!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Maple Glazed Parsnips and Carrots

Parsnips are so sweet all by themselves you might think they wouldn't benefit from being glazed. But this simple and delicious recipe confirms the saying that too much of a good thing can be wonderful.

This recipe calls for a pound of parsnips and a pound of carrots, but you can cut the recipe in half or change the proportion of parsnips to carrots to suit your taste.

1 T vegetable oil
1 lb parsnips, peeled, trimmed and sliced into chunks
1 lb carrots, peeled, trimmed and sliced into chunks
1 C broth (chicken or vegetable) or water
1/2 C maple syrup
1 T rice vinegar
2 T butter
salt and pepper to taste
rosemary, optional

1. Heat oil in a non-reactive skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add chopped parsnips and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally until they begin to brown slightly, about 2-3 minutes.

2. Add the broth, syrup and vinegar. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are barely tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Uncover the pan and turn up the heat a little. Cook until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is like syrup, another 8-10 minutes.

4. Stir in the butter. Season with salt and peppper to taste. Add a little snipped fresh rosemary, if you'd like, or garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Serve.

Don't throw away those carrot and parsnip peels. Put them in the compost or make a quick broth from them.

Today's bounty included:

From Underwood Family Farms: Round carrots, red and green leaf lettuce, arugula, tatsoi, black kale, candy beets, French Breakfast radishes, celery, acorn squash, and butternut squash;

From Weiser Family Farms: Rustic cooking Nantes carrots, beets, parsnips, and Romanesco cauliflower;

From Sage Mountain Farm: Collard greens, Torpedo Baby Spring onions, New England pie pumpkin, and Red Gold potatoes;

From Rancho Santa Celicia: Satsuma mandarins and limes;

And from Drake Family Farms: Chevre.



Friday, December 9, 2011

Glacé Satsuma Mandarin Orange Segments

There's something perfectly delightful about gifts from the kitchen, and the holiday season offers many opportunities to make something wonderful and delicious for family and friends.

Today's recipe uses one of our favorite winter fruits, Satsuma mandarins, to make beautiful candied orange segments that taste like orange honey and will keep for months, if they're not eaten up before then.

Making glacé fruit takes a little time, most of which is simply allowing the fruit to soak. Whole fruit or pieces of fruit are soaked in a sugar syrup for several days until they become saturated. Each day you add a little more sugar to the syrup, increasing the concentration and allowing the fruit to soak up more syrup. Once the fruit is saturated, you let it dry for a day or two and that's it.

You can use practically any fruit. The amount of time needed to fully saturate the fruit will vary depending on the size of the pieces and the type of fruit. I allowed the mandarin orange segments to soak in the syrup for a total of 10 days, adding sugar each of the first six days then allowing them to soak in the syrup at room temperature for four more days. Then I dried them on a rack for two days.

This recipe calls for a little bit of dextrose, also known as brewer's sugar. Dextrose is an invert sugar, so called because its molecular structure is inverted as compared to glucose. What's important is that it prevents the sugar from crystallizing during the the multi-day process of making glacé fruit. You can get dextrose at a home brewing (beer-making) store. There's one in Eagle Rock.

This recipe calls for 1/2 lb. of mandarin segments, but you can double the recipe if you have more mandarins.

Glacé Satsuma Mandarin Orange Segments

1/2 lb peeled Satsuma mandarin oranges
1/2 C dextrose
2 to 2-1/4 C sugar

1. Carefully separate the peeled mandarins into segments and carefully remove as much of the pith and membrane as possible.

2. Place segments in a small to medium saucepan. Cover with plenty of water and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce to a simmer and gently cook for 5-10 minutes, until fruit is just barely cooked through and not falling apart. Drain and discard the water.

3. In the same pot, heat 1/2 C dextrose, 3/4 C sugar, and 3 C water over medium low heat until it comes to a boil, stirring occasionally and gently, only to combine. Reduce the heat and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Add the fruit to the hot syrup. Cook for 1 minute, until just heated through. Then remove from the heat and let stand overnight, uncovered, at room temperature.

4. The next day: Remove fruit from the syrup with a slotted spoon. Add 2-3 T sugar to the syrup and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Then add fruit back to the syrup. Remove from the heat and let stand overnight, uncovered, at room temperature.

5. For the next 4-6 days, repeat step 4 until all the sugar is used or until the mandarin segments are fully saturated with sugar.

6. After the last addition of sugar, allow the mandarin segments to soak in the syrup for another 3-4 days. Then remove the segments from the syrup. Place them on a wire rack with a pan underneath to catch the drips and allow them to dry for 8 hours or overnight, preferably in a warm dry place.

Don't discard the syrup. It'll taste like orange honey. Put it on pancakes or waffles, or stir it into tea.

You can toss the glacéed segments in fine sugar after drying or dip them in tempered chocolate to create an extra special treat.

Today's bounty included:

From Underwood Family Farms: Green leaf lettuce, red chard, bok choy, arugula, yellow carrots, turnips, celery, Kabocha squash, parsley, and Beefsteak tomatoes;

From Sage Mountain Farm: Collard greens, Red Russian kale, Red Gold tomatoes, Cherry Belle radishes, and Spring Torpedo onions;

From Weiser Family Farms: Rustic Nantes carrots, parsnips, German Butterball potatoes, and Romanesco cauliflower;

From Rancho Santa Cecilia: Satsuma mandarins.



Friday, December 2, 2011

Braised Lamb with Carrots and Potatoes

Carrots, celery, and potatoes are mainstays of savory cooking, and this week's recipe uses them in a delicious braised lamb dish.

The lamb I used is local, from Tehachapi, and sustainably farmed. It was raised by Nancee Siebert, who I met through the Master Food Preserver training program. Nancee has been raising lambs since she was a little girl. The lambs are born early in the year, and Nancee starts selling them in late summer until they're gone.

I bought a whole lamb from Nancee and served the leg at Thanksgiving. It was some of the most delicious lamb I've eaten. Nancee raises her lambs with love and you can taste it. As of this blog post, Nancee still has a few lambs left, so if you're interested in one, you can contact me through Silver Lake Farms for more information.

If you don't want to use lamb in this dish, you can use beef or chicken instead. The cooking times may vary, but braise until fork tender.

Braised Lamb with Carrots and Potatoes

1 T olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
4 lamb shoulder chops
salt and pepper
2 C water or stock
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped in 6-8 pieces
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 rib celery, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 bay leaf
4-6 small potatoes, peeled
1 small celery root, peeled and chopped into 4-6 chunks

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan with a lid. Add the garlic and saute until aromatic and slightly golden.

2. Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper on both sides. Brown them on both sides in the pan with the garlic over medium heat.

3. Add the water or stock. Scatter the chopped onion, carrots, and celery in the pan. Add the bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Then turn the heat down and slowly simmer, covered, until the meat is just tender, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

4. Add the potatoes and celery root. Sprinkle them with a little paprika and continue braising until the celery root is tender, about another 30-45 minutes.

5. Do not allow all the liquid to cook off. Add a little more water or stock, if necessary. If you end up with too much liquid, uncover and reduce on a low simmer.

Don't Throw Away Those Veggie Scraps!

Waste not, want not is one of my mottos. Between the hens, the worms, and the compost, we don't have much food waste. Still, when I have the time, I like to make a vegetable broth from the peels and scraps of vegetables that I'm using for another purpose, and this braise provides just that tasty opportunty.

Be sure to scrub the vegetables well before peeling. Put all the peels and scraps in a medium saucepan. Add a bay leaf, some salt and a couple of peppercorns. Add 4 C of water and bring to a very low simmer. The secrets to a clear broth are do not stir and never let it boil. Simmer, barely bubbling, until reduced by half, about 45minutes. Cool and strain through a fine mesh strainer. Do not press the solids. Feed the remaining solids to the hens or the worms.

You can freeze this broth for use later. It's a good idea to cool it in the fridge before freezing.

This week's bounty came from four farms:

From Underwood Family Farms: White cauliflower, tatsoi, mizuna, broccoli, Celebrity tomatoes, romaine, carrots, French Breakfast radishes, celery root, and artichokes;

From Weiser family Farms: Potatoes, carrots, Watermelon radishes, rutabagas, and beets;

From Sage Mountain Farm: Spaghetti squash, green heirloom tomatoes, arugula, and collard greens; and

From Rancho Santa Cecilia: Satsuma mandarins and limes.



pictured here are scraps ready for making broth, and below, the broth itself. Delicious!