Friday, March 30, 2012

Fusilli with Italian Sausage, Zucchini, Kale and Carrots

What a special treat to get locally-made artisan sausage in today's CSA box! And this sausage is truly special. It was made just two weeks ago from a locally-raised sow bred from award-winning stock. The sausage is very fresh, and pretty lean as sausage goes. You can really taste the pork in this finely-balanced and subtly-spiced product.

This recipe uses several of the vegetables in today's box as well as the sausage to make a delicious pasta entree. You can use either the sweet Italian or the hot Italian sausage, or you can omit the sausage entirely if you prefer. You'll still end up with a flavorful dish.

1 lb Italian sausage
1-2 T olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1-2 zucchini, washed and sliced
4-6 oz kale, washed and chopped
1 lb fusilli pasta
1/2-2/3 C pasta cooking water
1/2 C heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese, optional

1. Heat 1 T olive oil in a large skillet. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up into bite-sized chucks (or smaller), until done. Remove the sausage from the skillet and set aside.

2. If necessary, heat a little more oil in the skillet. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.

3. Add the sliced carrots to the skillet. Turn down the heat, cover, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring once or twice.

4. Add the zucchini, cover again, and cook for 3 minutes more, stirring once or twice.

5. Add the kale, cover again and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the kale just wilts. Turn off the heat.

6. Return the cooked sausage to the skillet. [You can do everything up to this point ahead of time if you wish. Cool the skillet and its contents and refrigerate until you're ready to cook the pasta.]

7. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fusilli. Cook according to directions. [You can substitute spaghetti, linguini, fettuccini, or practically any pasta shape you prefer.]

8. Just before the pasta is done cooking, turn the heat on again under the sausage and vegetable mixture.

9. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 C of pasta water.

10. Add 1/2 C pasta cooking water and 1/2 C heavy cream to the skillet with the sausage and vegetables. Stir and cook for 1 minute.

11. Add the cooked, drained pasta, and stir to combine with the sausage and vegetable mixture. Stir constantly as the liquid begins to reduce, becomes very thick, and sticks to the pasta. Add a little more pasta water if necessary.

12. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Today's bounty included:

Sausage from Nancee Siebert's sow prepared by Fryer's Meats and distributed by Jennie Cook;

French fingerling potatoes from Weiser Family Farms;

From Sage Mountain Farm: organic siberian kale, red sails lettuce, spinach, and radishes;

From JR Organics: organic celery, chard, and red leaf lettuce;

From Jaime Farms: Cauliflower, free-range eggs, hot-house zucchini, carrots, and cilantro; and

From Rancho Santa Cecilia: Navel oranges.



Friday, March 23, 2012

Crunchy Kale Chips

I never met a salty snack I didn't like and kale chips are no exception. However, unlike many deep-fried salty snacks that have little nutrional value, kale chips are loaded with fat-soluble vitamins A and K, and the small amount of oil used in this recipe actually makes it easier to absorb these vitamins.

Making kale chips is simple. Wash and dry a bunch of fresh and sturdy kale leaves. Remove the stems. Break into bite-sized pieces. Toss with oil. Add salt and pepper, if desired, as well as any other flavorings. Spread on a baking sheet and bake until crispy.

Some recipes call for baking the kale in a hot (400 degree F) oven. However, I find it's much easier to control the doneness of the chips in a moderate temperature oven. It will take a little longer, though. If you have a food dehydrator, you can skip the oven altogether and simply dehydrate the chips. I think you get the best product using a dehydrator, but the oven works just fine if you don't have a dehydrator.

Kale chips are addictingly delicious and since they are rather delicate, they don't do particularly well as dippers. However, they're wonderful crumbled onto salads or fresh-popped popcorn. And keep in mind, they can get soggy, so use them quickly or store them in a air-tight container.

1 bunch kale
1 T olive oil
1 t salt, or to taste
pepper to taste
flavorings to taste (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 325-350 degrees F.

2. Wash and dry the kale. Remove the stems and break into bite-sized pieces. You should have 6-8 C of loosely packed kale leaves. Place in a large bowl.

3. Drizzle the oil over the kale and toss gently until the oil is well-distributed. Add the salt and any other flavorings you prefer. Toss well to distribute evenly.

4. Spread kale in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until crisp, 20-30 minutes.

5. Remove from baking sheet and serve.

It's best to avoid any liquid flavorings that are not oil-based. However, once you coat the kale with the oil, you can add a small amount of liquid such as a squeeze of lemon juice or lime juice, or a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Be sure to toss well to distribute the flavorings evenly.

If you want to get a little fancy, you can try Master Food Preserver, Amy Goldman's recipe: Blend 1 C cashews, 1/2 bell pepper, juice from 1/2 lemon, 1/2 C nutritional yeast, red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Toss this mixture with the kale and dehydrate or dry in the oven.

Today's bounty included:

From Massa Organics: CA-grown organic brown rice;

From Sage Mountain Farm: Red sails lettuce, shiraz beets, red Russian kale, and green onions;

From Underwood Family Farms: Japanese turnips, Easter radishes, bok choy, fennel, Zutano avocado, purple kale, Romesco cauliflower, broccoli, yellow carrots, and romaine lettuce;

From Weiser Family Farms: Red thumbs potatoes;

From Jaime Farms: cabbage, red onions, brown onions, hot-house red bell peppers, hot-house zucchini, cilantro, dill, free-range eggs, and hot-house Better Boy tomatoes;

From Rancho Santa Celicia: navel oranges.



Friday, March 16, 2012

Spicy Salad Greens with Pomelo and Blueberries

Pomelo is among the largest citrus fruits. Its thick, pithy rind covers a juicy center that resembles a grapefruit. The membranes of the pomelo tend to be quite tough, so slicing the sections into supremes is a great way to enjoy this sweet and aromatic fruit.

Making supremes is easy with a fruit as large as the pomelo. Peel off the rind and as much of the pith as possible. Then slice each section just inside of the membranes on both sides. The beautifully trimmed sections, free of tough membranes, will come right out. You can cut supremes from any citrus fruit, but the bugger the fruit, the easier it is, so have fun practicing with the pomelo.

Today's recipe is a refreshing salad of spicy greens, such as arugula and mizuna, with pomelo supremes and blueberries. I like to squeeze the juice remaining in the membranes after I cut out the supremes and use it to flavor the vinaigrette for the salad.

I added some greens from my own garden to the arugula from today's CSA box. You can use whatever mix of flavorful greens you prefer. You can even add some parsley if you'd like. Just be sure to wash the greens thoroughly and dry them well.

For 2 generous servings:

3-4 C loosely packed washed and dried greens
1 pomelo, cut into supremes
1 C blueberries, washed and dried
1 T thinly sliced red onion
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
1-2 T juice squeezed from pomelo membranes, optional
1-2 T rice or cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
crushed, toasted nuts, such as almonds or pistachios for garnish, optional

1. In a large bowl, toss the greens, pomelo supremes, blueberries, and red onion.

2. In a small bowl or a cup, combine the olive oil, juice, and vinegar and whisk with a fork or small whisk until combined.

3. Drizzle about half the dressing over the salad. Toss to cover. Season with salt and pepper. Toss again to distribute. Taste and add a little more dressing if desired.

Avocado slices would be a lovely addition to this salad, as would grilled shrimp.

Today's bounty included:

From Underwood Family Farms: Green cabbage, round carrots, arugula, romaine, bok choy, mizuna, rainbow chard, green kale, pomelo, and blueberries;

From Weiser Family Farms: Rutabagas and Nantes carrots;

From Jaime Farms: Celery, hot house zucchini, brown onions, cauliflower, Italian parsley, baby dill, free range eggs, and hot house tomatoes; and

From Rancho Santa Celicia: Satsuma mandarins and navel oranges.



Friday, March 9, 2012


Pudding has always been one of my favorite desserts. I love a rich, dark chocolate pudding or a creamy rice pudding with lots of cinnamon and raisins. But the queen of all puddings is flan, an egg-y baked custard crowned with coppery caramel sauce.

Flan is made by caramelizing sugar, pouring it into the bottom of a baking dish, covering it with custard, and baking until the custard is set. To serve, the custard is usually inverted onto a plate and the caramelized sugar, now on top, becomes a beautiful and delicious sauce.

While it may look like you slaved for hours in the kitchen, flan is surprisingly simple to make. There are only three major ingredients: sugar, eggs, and milk. Add a little vanilla flavoring to the custard and/or some finely grated orange rind and you have a dessert that's fit for company, yet soothing enough to be comfort food.

Don't be daunted by caramelizing sugar. It's pretty easy. But if you don't want to bother, you can still make this lovely and simple baked custard. The recipe for the custard follows the directions for caramelizing sugar.

To Caramelize Sugar:

You'll need a heavy-duty 1-1/2 to 2 qt saucepan with a handle, preferably one that doesn't heat up. You'll also want to have a 1-1/2 qt baking dish for your custard at the ready. I like to use a round, bowl-like, glass baking dish, such as Pyrex. It allows me to see what's going on during baking and when inverting the custard.

Put 1/2 C granulated white sugar and 1/4 C water in the saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir just until the sugar has dissolved in the water. When the sugar syrup begins to boil, lift the pan slightly over the heat, giving yourself just enough room to tip the pan gently to the right and the left. If necessary, turn up the heat.

Continue tipping the pan to the right and the left, allowing the sugar syrup to boil and flow back and forth in the bottom of the pan over the heat. After a while, the syrup will begin to take on a light golden color. Continue tipping the pan and the sugar will take on a deeper and darker caramelized color. The amount of time this takes varies depending on the amount of sugar syrup and heat. It might take 10 minutes or longer, but be careful not to burn it.

When the sugar has caramelized, remove it from the heat and quickly pour it into the baking dish. Swirl the baking dish around so the caramel coats the entire bottom and some of the sides. Be very careful working with caramelized sugar. It's about 300 degrees F and will stick to your skin. I like to use oven mitts when pouring the caramelized sugar into the baking dish and when swirling the baking dish to coat the bottom and sides fo the dish.

Many recipes for caramelized sugar call for adding a pinch of cream of tartar or a little lemon juice. These ingredients prevent the sugar from crystallizing. Another technique to prevent crystallization is to gently wash down the sides of the saucepan if crystals appear when you're tipping it back and forth. This can be done with a brush dipped in water. Personally, I've never had a problem with crystallization and have never needed to use any of these techniques. Now you can set the baking dish aside and make the custard.

To Make the Custard:

3 eggs + 2 egg yolks
2 C whole milk
1/4 C sugar
1 t vanilla flavoring

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Break the eggs into a mixing bowl or 4 C measuring cup and beat the eggs gently with a fork until combined.

3. Add the sugar, half the milk and the vanilla and beat gently with a fork until well combined.

4. Add the remaining milk and beat gently with a fork until combined.

5. Pour the custard over the caramelized sugar which has hardened in the bottom and on the sides of your baking dish. I like to pour the custard through a strainer or sieve to catch any unincorporated bits of egg, but this step is optional.

6. To bake, place the baking dish with the custard in a slightly larger baking dish and pour hot water gently into the outer baking dish so that the depth of the water comes about half way up the side of the dish with the custard. The baking dish with the custard will be sitting in a bath of hot water. This is called a bain marie.

7. Place the custard in its bath in the preheated oven and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

8. When done, remove from the oven. Life the custard out of the water bath and cool slightly. Then refrigerate for at least 3 hours before inverting. It's best to invert the custard shortly before serving it.

If you chose not to make the caramel, there's no need to invert the custard. You can just scoop it out of the baking dish. In fact, you can scoop the flan out of the baking dish if you prefer, too. If you're not inverting it, you can serve the custard warm if you prefer, just be prepared for it to be soft and not hold its shape.

Flan or custard can also be made in individual servings using oven-safe custard cups. Pouring the hot caramelized sugar into individual custard cups is just slightly more complicated than pouring it into one larger baking dish.

Some folks like to use evaporated milk instead of whole milk for a richer custard. Other options for greater richness include: substituting half and half or cream for some of the milk. I've even seen recipes using sweetened condensed milk in place of some of the milk and the sugar. There are many delicious variations. Go ahead, be creative, if you're so inclined.

Today's bounty included:

From Weiser Family Farms: French Fingerling potatoes;

From Underwood Family Farms: Brussel sprouts, yellow carrots, spinach, Easter radishes, purple kale, mizuna, leeks, candy beets, green leaf lettuce, and curly parsley;

From Jaime Farms: Red onions, Kirby cucumbers, cauliflower, Italian parsley, baby dill, free-range eggs, and mixed peppers;

From Sage Mountain Farm: beets, red sails lettuce, spicy greens mix, and arugula;

From Rancho Santa Cecilia: navel oranges and satsuma mandarins.



Friday, March 2, 2012

Creamy, Cheesy Polenta with Creamy, Cheesy Vegetable "Ragu"

Polenta, or corn meal mush, is true comfort food. It's soft and warm and a great base for many wonderful toppings, both savory and sweet. It's easy to prepare, too. You simply pour corn meal into boiling liquid and stir. You can use yellow or white meal and any level of coarseness from finely ground to extra coarse. Of course, the better and fresher the meal, the tastier your final product.

I like cooking up corn meal for breakfast, adding some butter, maple sugar, and salt to the boiling water and serving it with more butter, maple syrup, and milk.

Today's recipe is a savory rendition of polenta made with broth instead of water. But you can use water, if you don't have any broth. I've added freshly grated parmesan cheese and paired the polenta with a creamy and cheesy vegetable "ragu."

I put "ragu" in quotation marks because the Italians consider ragu to be a tomato-based meat sauce, and there's neither meat nor tomatoes in my topping. Nevertheless, it's thick and rich and loaded with tasty vegetables from today's CSA box.

You might want to make (or start) the vegetable ragu first, as it can sit while you cook up the polenta. Polenta hardens as it cools and may reach a point at which it will be difficult or impossible to turn it back into a creamy mush. However, polenta is often allowed to firm up and then cut into pieces. So you can serve it this way, if you prefer.

Creamy, Cheesy Vegetable Ragu

1 T butter or olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/4 lb. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2-3 C broccoli florets
4 C chopped kale
1 C cream or whole evaporated milk
1-2 T sherry wine, optional
1/2 - 1 C finely grated parmesam cheese, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt the butter or heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute, covered, until the onions are translucent.

2. Add the carrots and shiitake and continue to cook covered for 3-5 minutes, until the carrots are not quite tender.

3. Add the broccoli and kale and continue to cook covered until the broccoli and kale turn bright green and the kale has become soft, about 2-4 minutes. The vegetables should exude some moisture while cooking, but if the pan is too dry, you can add 2-4 T water or broth.

4. Add the cream and the sherry. Turn up the heat to medium. Remove the cover and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.

5. Add the cheese and stir until the sauce is creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can reduce the sauce even more if you'd like it to be thicker. When it's the desired thickness, cover the pan and turn off the heat.

Creamy, Cheesy Polenta

1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 t salt
4 C broth of water
1 C corn meal
1 C finely grated parmesan cheese, or to taste
more salt and pepper to taste

1. Put the butter, olive oil, salt and broth or water into a medium saucepan and bring the water to a rolling boil.

2. Gently add the corn meal, stirring constantly to break up any lumps.

3. Turn the heat to low or medium-low and stir constantly until the polenta begins to thicken. Then lower the heat and cook the polenta, stirring occasionally for 20-30 minutes.

4. Stir in the grated parmesan cheese until melted and combined.

5. Turn off the heat and stir in more salt, if needed, and lots of black and white pepper to taste. Although you don't have to stir constantly, stir regularly until the polenta reaches the desired thickness, such as when it holds its shape spooned onto a plate or bowl.

To assemble: Re-heat the vegetable ragu, if necessary. Spoon the polenta onto a plate and top with the vegetable ragu. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings.

If you'd like, you can add a sprig of rosemary to the polenta as it cooks. Take it out before serving.

Today's bounty included:

From Underwood Family Farms: Artichokes, green cabbage, green kale, turnips, purple carrots, broccoli, butter lettuce, spinach, and escarole;

From Weiser Family Farms: Parsnips, French Fingerling potatoes, and rutabagas;

From Jaime Farms: Cauliflower, celery, red beets, Persian cucumbers,carrots, zucchini, red romaine, oregano, marjoram, tomatoes, and eggs;

From Rancho Santa Cecilia: Zutano avocado.