Friday, November 23, 2012


I hope everyone had a happy and delicious Thanksgiving.

I like to eat what's in season.  Most things taste better if they're grown when they can thrive.  Plus, you frequently get a wider range of varieties when you stick to seasonal produce.  We're fortunate here in California.  Our growing seasons are long and there's something wonderful coming ripe almost any time of the year.  But some things are truly seasonal, even here in Southern California, and apples are a fall crop.

We see apples year-round in the grocery stores because many varieties have been developed that respond well to cold storage and are hard enough to withstand shipping from far away.  The Granny Smith apples you buy in May and June usually are shipped from somewhere in the southern hemisphere.  That's a long way for an apple to travel.

Personally, I prefer to save the flavor of the apple season by preserving a variety of apple products made from fresh local apples.  Did you know there are over 25 varieties of apples available less than a two hour drive from Los Angeles?  And the Pink Lady and Fuji apples we're been getting in our CSA box are perfect for making your own apple butter, dried apple slices, apple chutney, and apple sauce, one of the easiest ways to preserve apples.

If you've never made your own applesauce, you're in for a treat.  You can tweak the flavor by using different apple varieties and you can control the sugar, from adding none at all to as sweet as you like.

Unless you want your applesauce chunky, you don't have to peel the apples.  And if you have a food mill, you don't even have to core them.  But you don't need anything more than a stockpot and a knife to make a chunky applesauce.  And if you like your applesauce smooth, a food mill, immersion blender, regular blender or food processor will do the trick.

Personally, I prefer the food mill approach.  I just cut my apples in 4-8 pieces each, put them in a stock pot with 1/2 C water and cook them covered over medium-low heat until they're very soft.  I let them cool a bit; then I run them through a food mill, return the puree to the pot, sweeten to taste and cook to my desired thickness, which isn't very long.  From here, I can cool the applesauce, pack it into freezer containers and freeze it, or preferably, can it in a boiling water bath canner.  Pints process for 15 minutes.  I like the rosy color imparted by the peel.  Sometimes I add a little lemon juice, if I want some tartness, too.

No food mill.  No problem.  A blender or food process will pulverize the peels, but you might want to seed and core the apples first.  Or you can peel and core the apples and cook them in a stock pot with 1/2 C water until soft.  Then mash the apples with a fork for a chunky style sauce or use a blender or processor to make a smoother sauce.  Again, sweeten to your taste.

Cut apples turn brown when exposed to air.  You can minimize browning by soaking the apples in a lemon juice and water solution.  But I usually don't bother with this step.

Making your own applesauce is easy.  You can mix varieties or make a sauce from a single variety.  Best of all, you can control what's in it.  So, extend the season for our own local apples by making this simple and delicious treat.

Wednesday's box included the following:

From Drake Family Farms:  Chevre;

From Jaime Farms:  Tarrgon, parsley, red leaf lettuce, kale, leeks, and celery;

From Jimenez Family Farm:  Cilantro, winter squash, russet potatoes, bell peppers, and spinach;

From K and K Ranch:  Pink Lady apples, pomegranates, Chandler walnuts, and fuyu persimmons; and

From Weiser Family Farms:  Russian banana potatoes and mixed carrots.



Friday, November 16, 2012

Oven Roasted Whole Cauliflower

Are you looking for a super simple side dish for Thanksgiving?  This oven roasted cauliflower recipe may be just the thing.  It's delicious and dramatic, and it couldn't be easier.

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Remove the outer leaves and cut out the tough core of the cauliflower.  Wash the cauliflower and pat it dry.  Rub it with a generous amount (2-3 T) of olive oil.  [If you prefer, you can brush it on.]  Sprinkle it generously with salt (about 1/2-1 t) and pepper (1/4 t or to taste).  Place it on a cookie sheet or in a shallow-sided roasting pan and roast it for about an 60-90 minutes until it's tender when pierced with a fork and golden brown on the outside.

You can stop right there and you have a simple and beautiful side dish, but I like to remove the cauliflower from the oven and sprinkle it generously with smoked paprika.  Then I return it to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.  If you want to get even fancier, you can make a simple sauce to serve with the roasted cauliflower.  I like this one:

4 cloves finely chopped garlic
4-6 T capers, drained
1 stick butter

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cook on medium heat until the butter is melted and the garlic is just beginning to color, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and serve with roasted cauliflower.

You can roast a head of garlic while the cauliflower is in the oven.  It should only take about 20 minutes.  Then you can substitute roasted garlic for the finely chopped garlic.  Chopped parsley makes a nice garnish.

Today's bounty included:

From Jaime Farms:  Cauliflower and red and green peppers;

From Jimenez Family Farm:  Rainbow chard, winter squash, strawberries, dill, and cilantro;

From K & K Ranch:  Pick Lady apples and grapes;

From Maggie's Farm:  Garden salad mix, spicy salad mix, and tatsoi;

From Weiser Family Farm:  Potatoes and beets;

From Silver Lake Farms:  Oregano, rosemary, and mint.



Friday, November 9, 2012

Cheesy Pull-Apart Bread

This marvelous quick bread comes courtesy of Food & Wine magazine.  I've been making it for years, and it never fails to please.  It's essentially a biscuit dough baked as a loaf with a super delicious filling of sauteed onions, poppy seeds and cheese.  While it's best fresh and warm, do let it cool down for about 15-20 minutes before breaking into it.  You can also make it a day or two in advance and re-heat it before serving.

Make the cheesy onion filling:

1 T butter
1 med onion, finely chopped
1 T poppy seeds
1 C grated Gruyere cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Melt the butter in a skillet.  Add the onions and saute until soft and transparent, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2.  Remove from heat.  Stir in poppy seeds.  Cool to room temperature.

3.  Stir in grated cheese.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside until assembling the bread.

Make the bread:

2 C flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 stick chilled butter, cut into 8-10 chunks
1 C buttermilk
1 recipe cheesy onion filling (see above)
2 T melted butter

1.  Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F.

2.  Butter a 9" x 4" metal loaf pan.  Set aside.

3.  In a food processor or a bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) until well mixed.

4.  Add the butter and pulse the food processor or cut in the butter with two knives until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

5.  Add the buttermilk and pulse 5-6 times in the food processor or gently stir just until a dough begins to form.  Do not over mix.

6.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times until the dough comes together.  Then shape into a 2" x 20" rectangle.

7.  Spread the cooled onion cheese mixture on top of the dough.

8.  Cut into 10 pieces.  Stack 9 pieces of dough on top of one another with the onion cheese mixture on top.  Place the tenth piece on top, onion mixture down.

9.  Carefully lay the stack in the prepared loaf pan and brush with the melted butter.

10.  Bake at 425 degrees F for about 30 minutes until golden on top.

11.  Cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from pan and and serve warm or wrap and store for later use.  Re-heat in oven before serving.

Today's bounty included:

From Cuyama Orchard:  Gala apples;

From Jaime Farms:  Radishes, green leaf lettuce, broccoli, and kale;

From Jimenez Family Farm:  Carrots, leeks, rainbow swiss chard, dill, cilantro, Albion strawberries, and winter squash;

From K and K Ranch:  Thompson grapes, Chandler walnuts, and yellow onions; and

From Polito Ranch:  Hass avocados.



Friday, November 2, 2012

Chiles en Nogada

I just came back from San Miguel de Allende in Central Mexico where I enjoyed a classic seasonal Mexican dish called Chiles en Nogada.  Chiles en Nogada are roasted poblano peppers stuffed with picadillo, covered with a rich and creamy pureed walnut sauce, and garnished with parsley and pomegranate seeds.  The red pomegranate seeds and the fresh green parsley leaves against the creamy white sauce are said to symbolize the red, green and white of the Mexican flag.

Chiles en Nogada are often served cold or at room temperature, but personally, I prefer this dish warm.  It's a little bit of a production to make.  Fortunately, you can roast the peppers and make the picadillo ahead of time.  That way, you simply have to make the walnut sauce and assemble the dish.

Picadillo is a sweet-savory filling that's used in tacos and tamales as well as these stuffed peppers; and there are probably hundreds of recipes for picadillo.  It's typically made with ground meat, onions, garlic, raisins or currents, nuts, olives or capers, and spices.  I made my picadillo with ground lamb, but you can use ground beef or pork, shredded meat, or even tofu, if you prefer.

To roast the peppers:

On a gas stove with an open flame, lay the peppers across the burner in direct contact with the flame.  Turn the peppers as the skin blisters.  When completely charred, put the peppers in a bowl or paper bag until cool enough to handle.  Then rub or peel off the charred skin.

You can roast peppers on a barbeque grill or in a hot oven instead.  Follow the same steps as above, turning the peppers as the skins blisters and chars.  Cool before peeling.

Make a 2-3 inch lengthwise slit in each pepper and carefully remove the seeds without tearing the peppers.  Set aside or refrigerate for later use.

To make the picadillo (for 2-3 medium poblano peppers):

1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 C finely chopped onion
1/2 lb ground lamb (or beef)
1/2 medium Fuji apple cut in 1/4" dice
1-2 T chopped golden raisins
1 T chopped slivered almonds
1-2 T sliced olives (black or green)
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground cumin
pinch ground cloves
1 T tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Heat olive oil in 10" skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and onions and saute until translucent.

2.  Add ground lamb and continue cooking, breaking the lamb into crumbles as it cooks.

3.  Stir in the diced apple, raisins, almonds, and olives and continue cooking until the lamb is nearly done.

4.  Stir in the spices and tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5.  Use immediately to stuff the roasted poblanos or cool, cover and refrigerate for later use.

To make the nogada sauce:

1/2 C roasted walnut halves and pieces
1/2 C milk
1/2 - 3/4 cream
1-2 T sherry
salt to taste
pomegranate seeds and fresh parsley for garnish

1.  Pour boiling water to cover over the walnuts.  Allow to stand for 5 minutes.  Drain.  Rub walnuts in a dish towel to remove their brown, papery skins.

2.  Soak skinned walnuts in 1/2 C milk for 1 hour.  Drain.

3.  Put walnuts and cream in a blender and blend on a low speed until the walnuts are pureed into the cream to make a sauce.  Be careful not to over-process to turn the cream into butter.

4.  Pour from blender into a small saucepan.  Stir in sherry.  Season with salt.

5.  Just before you're ready to assemble the dish, heat the sauce, whisking constantly.  If desired, you can reduce the sauce over medium-low heat to desired thickness.  Some people like to add a little cream cheese or goat cheese to the sauce for flavor.  Stir the cheese in while your heating the sauce and make sure it's fully melted and mixed into the sauce.

To assemble Chiles en Nogada:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Stuff the roasted poblanos with picadillo and place in a shallow baking dish or on a baking sheet.  Cover with foil and bake for about 20-30 minutes, until heated through.

3.  Heat nogada sauce.

4.  Place a heated stuffed pepper on a plate.  Cover with the warm nogada sauce.  Garnish generously with pomegranate seeds and fresh parsley.

Today's bounty included:

From Jaime Farms:  Green leaf lettuce, kale, cabbage, beets, and celery;

From Jimenez Family Farm:  Leeks, tomatoes, green beans, winter squash, carrots, chard, mixed peppers, basil, and dill;

From K and K Ranch:  Grapes and pomegranates; and

From Silver Lake Farms:  Oregano and thyme.