Cooking for two is boring -- I want to cook for the entire blogosphere!

Sunday, October 31

Our Summer of CSA - Week... ?

Where does the time go? It seems to have flown by in a flurry of weddings, writing a lot for work, getting the house in order, and enjoying the last of summer and our beautiful fall.

In between, of course, lots of cooking. We made two kinds of butternut squash soup - one with ginger, one with apples, both delicious. We hosted a birthday party for my mom and cooked her a grand French feast: coq au vin, haricots verts, Yukon Gold potatoes, plenty of wine and champagne, and flourless chocolate cake with raspberry sorbet for dessert. Heaven, all of it.

We've also had more kale than we know what to do with; I've taken to making smashed potatoes and kale, kind of two steakhouse sides in one, which feels rich and special though it's easy as any mashed potato could be.

Last week came a bag of concord grapes, which turned in grape sorbet, which has since sat in our freezer. I guess a sorbet on its own, especially at the end of October, isn't super appealing. My dream is to make peanut butter ice cream, swirl it with the grape sorbet, and sandwich that between two shortbread cookies. Sandwich ice cream sandwich! Alas, see first sentence. Where does the time go?

One thing I've been cooking a lot of in the past month is apple crisp. Boy, we had a bumper crop of apples with the CSA. Pounds of them. And pears! I made one apple cake, didn't like it too much (nor did the hubby), so went back to crisps.

I love this recipe - it's superb with tart apples, but they don't have to be super crisp or fresh. I made it mostly with Macintoshes, which tend to disintegrate, and it's like eating apple sauce with a crumble topping. Make it with a mix of apples for the best flavor. We also received some hard, tart, very red-skinned apples (Rome? Winesap?) which were great.

Best Apple Crisp


1/3 cup light brown sugar (less if you like - and make your own!)
2 1/2 tbsp flour
2 tsp cinnamon (5 or 6 shakes)
Shake or two of salt
8 cups peeled, cored, and coarsely sliced apples (or mix of apples & pears, but use a little less sugar)
Juice of half a lemon (about 1 1/2 tbsp)
1 tbsp cognac, bourbon, rum, or brandy
1 or 2 tbsp apple cider or juice (give or take - depends on juiciness of apples)


3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats (I've been using quick - accidental purchase - and they also work here)
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp butter, cut into small chunks
(Optional: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts. I love adding them, husband doesn't.)
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. Find an 8 x 8 glass pan, deep-dish pie pan, or similar-sized casserole dish.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt until blended. Stir in the apples, lemon juice, cognac, and apple cider and toss until the apples are coated with the brown sugar mixture.
  • Spread the filling evenly in the pan and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the topping: in a medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt and nuts, if using. Add the butter chunks and blend in with your finger tips or a pastry cutter until they're well incorporated. You can add more butter if you like, but don't add less than 5 tablespoons - the topping won't hold together and will end up mushy after baking.
  • Sprinkle the topping over the apples until no apples peek through. You might have a bit left, depending on what size pan you use.
  • Increase the oven temperature to 375 F and bake for about 25 minutes more, until the filling is bubbly and the topping is nicely browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes before you serve (lets the filling set up a bit, and keeps you from burning your mouth!).
  • This is great served with vanilla ice cream / creme fraiche / plain yogurt / whipped cream.
- Adapted from The All-American Dessert Book by Nancy Baggett

Thursday, September 9

Our Summer of CSA - Week 13

We have apples. Lots of apples. It must be September. Oh yes, we have peppers and pears and lettuce and carrots and eggplant and corn and tomatoes and basil, but mostly we have apples. So, besides eating one a day to keep the doctor away, what to do? Why make apple cake, of course.

This cake is so easy, it would be a great one to make if you're cooking with a child or someone else who's just beginning. Spicy, moist, and just right on the first real, cool day of fall. Happy New Year, everyone.

Apple Spice Cake

1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk (sub: 1 tbsp white vinegar and 1 cup plain milk)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped apple (about 1 apple)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • Lightly grease and flour an 8 x 8 inch pan, or line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 deg.
  • Whisk the first seven ingredients (flour through salt) together in a large bowl.
  • In a separate small bowl, mix together the buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture and stir together until combined and smooth.
  • Mix in the apples and walnuts.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a rack about 10 minutes. Slide a thin knife around the cake to detach it from the pan, and invert it onto a plate. Peel off the parchment paper, if using. Let cool right side up on the rack.
  • Serve with vanilla ice cream or brandied whipped cream, or just on its own.
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking.

Monday, September 6

Our Summer of CSA - Week 12

This week brought us a very manageable bounty. As I unpacked the bag, I thought, "Okay, we can do this! We can eat all this food before the end of the week!" It helped that we had some not-so-perishable goodies in there: a bunch of apples; poblano, Italian and bell peppers; and a small eggplant. We also lucked out with some beautiful green chard, which I cooked the first night we brought it home so we could enjoy it before it started to wilt (which it did pretty soon) and a huge bunch of basil, which we turned into pesto, of course, and which my husband also made into Thai basil chicken (recipe via Cook's Illustrated). We also had two amazing nectarines and some pears, which we made quick work of - no need to cook them when they're so delicious on their own - and two yellow tomatoes, which we chopped up and tossed with our pesto pasta.

As part of a deal I made with a friend, I'm making at least one healthy recipe per week - of course, I like to think I make more than one anyway, but this way I'll be thinking about it more. So with our beautiful green chard we made one of my favorite soups, Chard, White Bean and Potato ragout, which we've already made once this CSA summer. It's very low-fat and full of fiber, protein, and whatever goodness comes in green chard. It also tastes delicious.

We also made a really stunning side from Fast, Fresh & Green: Stir-Fried Swiss Chard with Balsamic Butter. It has the smoky flavor of Chinese cooking, and feels pretty sophisticated. I've adapted this from the original recipe, which had browned pine nuts in it.

Stir-Fried Swiss Chard with Balsamic Butter

1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp dark brown sugar
12 oz green swiss chard
1 tbsp peanut oil
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp salt plus a pinch more
  • In a small bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and brown sugar.
  • Rinse and dry chard leaves and stems well. Remove leaves from stems. Chop stems crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces.
  • Heat the peanut oil in a large (12") nonstick or cast iron skillet - you'll need it, as the uncooked chard is quite bulky. When the oil is hot, add the chard stems and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until they're shrunken and beginning to brown lightly, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and stir fry until just fragrant. Add the chard leaves and 1/2 tsp salt and using tongs, toss until the leaves are just wilted (45 seconds). (Here is where I overcooked mine a bit because I didn't have enough room to maneuver in my 10" pan).
  • Scrape the balsamic mixture into the pan and stir, then remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter and toss and stir until it's melted. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Friday, August 27

Our Summer of CSA - Week 11

It's not my fault that we skipped so many weeks. We went off and got married, so we were kind of busy. Instead of cooking from our local upstate farm, we cooked California produce and fresh fish caught in Hawaiian waters. We drank New Mexican champagne and ate Afghan food. And all the while, for four weeks, friends took our CSA produce home and made their own delicious meals.

We were also a little lazy, and in the last two weeks since we've been home, haven't been so good about cooking creative things. We've made a lot of salad - the same salad - over and over again. We ate apples and nectarines. We grilled corn on the cob. But this week, we're back in the groove. It helps that week 11 was a particularly delicious week. I filled our canvas bag with apples, peaches, potatoes, onions, fresh soybeans, corn, and a butternut squash. The soybeans were so surprising, though they shouldn't have been - they go hand in hand with corn as the most cultivated crop in America. But somehow, I don't associate them with small family farms. So, we learned something this week, as we seem to every week with the CSA!

I took the opportunity to make a bulgur wheat and edamade salad that I saw in Cooking Light ages ago. A friend and I started a little challenge between ourselves: to cook and blog one healthy meal per week and take one long walk per week. We both want to keep ourselves healthy and strong. It's not that we don't normally cook healthily, but this way we'll be able to share our best recipes of the week with each other.

This salad certainly fits the healthy criteria: soybeans, bulgur, tomatoes, herbs. And so summery and seasonal. I added half a red pepper and a stick of celery because we had them in the fridge. I also left out the dill. I've made tabbouleh before, and the recipe I use is very herby and very lemony. This is a more relaxed salad, meant to be eaten in a big bowl for lunch. It's important to let the salad sit before you eat it, as the wheat will absorb the extra moisture and get softer - it's purposefully underdone coming out of the pot.

Saturday, July 17

Our Summer of CSA - Week 5

Oops. Week 4 got away from us. It's hard to cook with all this produce, harder still to blog about it. We had many more greens and made a lovely and homey version of lentils with spinach using bulgar, black beans, and mystery greens. We ate peaches and plums out of hand. We made more French green salad with radishes, and we cooked up white bean and potato soup with leeks. We hardly had to throw anything away, which was refreshing.

This week saw fewer greens we didn't recognize, which was also refreshing. We made Cook's Illustrated pesto pasta salad with a beautiful bunch of fresh basil - so wonderful smelling, just like summer. We plan to make a kale and chickpea stew this evening. A huge bunch of fresh cilantro still sits in a glass of water in the fridge, waiting for summer rolls with shrimp and radishes. Our green squash wait for couscous with tomatoes and basil and Bittman's zucchini pancakes. Peaches we've been eating as dessert at lunch time, and plums I turned instantly into plum ice cream, which is tangy and rich and could not be easier or more delicious. These little red plums, with their floral notes, are much better cooked than eaten raw. Here's David Lebovitz's recipe, from The Perfect Scoop:

Plum Ice Cream

1 lb plums (about 8)
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar (to taste, based on how sweet plums already are)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp kirsh (I left it out - just helps soften ice cream)

Slice the plums in half and pit. Cut into eighths and put them into a medium, non-reactive saucepan with the water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Let cool to room temperature (speed this process up by putting the pan in the fridge or freezer, though let it cool on the stove at least 5 minutes first).

Once cool, puree in a blender or food processor with the cream and the kirsch until smooth.

Make sure the mixture is chilled thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker. Makes about 1 quart or so.

Saturday, July 3

Our summer of CSA - week 3

This week we had some great stuff waiting for us in our bags. On the fruit side, we got a big sack of sour cherries. From the vegetable farm, we received beets, lettuce, basil, and a mystery green we haven't been able to identify. The young ladies who pass out the bounty told me what it was, but I've completely forgotten the name. They said we could eat it like spinach, either cooked or in a salad. It has a slightly more sour, lemony flavor than spinach, however, and not nearly as bitter as kale or collard greens.

Our lettuce was a big round head, very crispy and crunchy. It was a perfect base for lemony tabbouleh. A simple pesto pasta salad (recipe courtesy Cooks Illustrated) used up our small bunch of basil. And beets, well, how could we not make borscht? This recipe is adapted from Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Roasted Beet and Carrot Borscht
About 2 pounds combined beets and carrots, peeled & quartered
Greens from the beets (if you have any)
4 tbsp cooking oil, like corn or canola
salt and pepper
1/2 large white onion, finely chopped
small bunch of fresh dill
1 lemon
4 medium white potatoes
sour cream or yogurt for garnish

  • Preheat the oven to 375. Put the beets and carrots in a roasting pan, drizzle with 2 tbsp oil plus salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat the vegetables with oil. Roast until a thin-bladed knife goes through with little resistance, about 30 - 40 minutes. When cool enough to handle, roughly chop the vegetables as finely as possible.
  • Put the remaining 2 tbsp oil in a soup pot or large saucepan and turn on the heat to medium-high. Add the onions and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until soft. Turn the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until golden and very tender, 10-15 minutes more.
  • Meanwhile, put a saucepan of salted water on to boil. Rinse and de-stem the beet greens, if there were any. When the water's boiling, throw the greens in. Blanch for one minute, then remove to a bowl of ice water. Squeeze out the water and roughly chop the greens. Then scrub the potatoes and add them to the boiling water, whole, and boil for about 20 minutes until tender.
  • Add the chopped beets and carrots to the soup pot with the onion, along with the stems of the dill (tied together with kitchen string), and add about 6 cups of water. Turn the heat back up to medium high and bring the soup to a boil, then put back down to medium-low, cover, and stir occasionally, until the soup is well colored and the beets are tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove the dill stems from the pot and add the juice from the lemon. Taste and adjust other seasonings as necessary. To serve, cut the potatoes into large chunks, adding one potato to each bowl. Ladle soup over the top, then top with freshly chopped dill and a bit of sour cream. Serves 4.

Saturday, June 26

Our summer of CSA - week 2

This week's CSA bounty included a lot of greenery: collards along with swiss chard, parsley, and something I finally identified as watercress. We also received some lovely raspberries and a small paper bag full of cherries. The fruit was easily dispensed with, but we pondered how to handle the rest in this hot weather, which doesn't make one like to turn on the stovetop, let alone the oven.

First up was tackling the watercress, since we learned via the Internet that it's fairly delicate and wouldn't last a terribly long time. Luckily I still had some radishes left from last week, and these, along with butter and some incredibly creamy goat cheese from Formaggio Essex, made a terrific foil for the tangy cress in a baguette sandwich. Serve with some sparkling water and - voila. Very French. We also found that buying a nice head of lettuce made watercress and radish salad an appetizing option as well.

Next we tackled the collards. A variation on this recipe, previously posted on the blog, was a great way to keep the stove use to a minimum. In the variation, from my new cookbook Fast, Fresh and Green, you make a little dressing with honey and cider vinegar and pour it over the top of greens cooked with garlic and pepper flakes just as they're finishing (not unlike this recipe).

Finally, one of my favorite soups, and one I usually cook in the wintertime: chard, potato, and white bean ragout. I just can't think of a better way to eat chard, so we braved the hot kitchen and cooked up a storm.

Next week, I'm hoping for some more delicious fruit, and we'll finish off our parsley in some lemony tabbouleh.

Monday, June 21

Lentils with Spinach and Soy Sauce

One of my favorite recipes, this is a pretty simple way to get dinner on the table during a week night. We had just enough spinach from our CSA to put this together. I like using French puy lentils for their nuttiness and meaty, chewy texture; my honey liked the "comfort food" quality of regular, softer green lentils. Either will work for this recipe.

Lentils with Spinach and Soy Sauce

1 cup dry lentils
1 bay leaf
1/2 onion
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup diced, peeled carrots
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 medium bunch spinach, about 12 oz., trimmed & washed
1 tbsp soy sauce

Sort and rinse lentils. Add to a pot and cover with 1 to 2 inches of water, along with the half an onion and bay leaf. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes based on the type of lentil (check the bag or container). Drain but do not rinse.

In a deep skillet, heat olive oil and then add carrots, sauteeing about 10 minutes, until tender. Add the garlic and stir to blend. Add the cooked, drained lentils (about 3 cups, cooked), the spinach and the soy sauce. Cover and cook for about 2 minutes, until the spinach has wilted down a bit, and then stir the pot. Cover and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Serve with rice or without.

Recipe modified from The Joy of Cooking.

Wednesday, June 16

Starting our Summer of CSA

This summer I signed up for a CSA share. I thought it would be an awesome way to support small farms, and it turns out that it's quite exciting, too. Every Tuesday I'll pick up a bag of mystery fruits and vegetables and have to figure out a way to cook with them. It's like Christmas every week!

This week we received strawberries, apples, radishes, lettuce, spinach, and cilantro. First, we made strawberry popsicles. We had a whole basket of tiny, ripe red berries and couldn't eat them all on cereal, after all. We mashed about a cup of berries together with a tablespoon or so of sugar and let them macerate for a bit, then added a half cup of plain yogurt and enough milk to thin it out. After a splash of lime juice, we added them to our popsicle molds and voila! They taste like strawberry frozen yogurt.

Dealing with our other ingredients required a bit more ingenuity. I haven't cooked much with radishes, and never with their fuzzy green fronds. A bit of research proved they were indeed edible and in fact tasty. So tonight, we made a pretty straight-forward salad: fresh green lettuce, paper-thin radish rounds, slivers of radish greens, and a mustard vinaigrette. It tasted fresh off the farm.

So far, CSA - thumbs up. Later this week we'll make a spicy tomato soup with lots of cilantro.