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What To Do with that Tasteless Canteloupe 3

Posted on August 25, 2011 by crankycheryl

We were standing around the melon bin at last week’s CSA pick-up, and I was explaining to my mom what I knew about picking out a good canteloupe.

  1. It should feel heavy for its size.
  2. Its blossom end should have some give.  (Which end is the blossom end?  One side will be where the fruit broke from the thick vine, and you’ll be able to see the outline of where the vine was.  The other end is where the fruit grew from the flower, and that’s where you’ll want to press to see if it’s a little soft.)
  3. It should smell like you want it to taste – fruity and a little sweet.

So people started gathering around, looking at me and looking down at the melons in their hands.  I kept repeating myself, and soon there was a small group of us standing around sniffing and hefting and poking and nodding and shrugging.

Though my 3-point list let me pretend to be a candidate for mayor of Melonville, as often as not, I end up with a tasteless melon from our CSA share.  At the store, I ask for a taste of melons before I buy them, and if I can’t have a taste and end up with a dud then I’ll return it for a refund.  But you can’t do that at the farm, and that’s why I’ve been working on ways to use those less-than-perfect ones.  Here are a couple of my latest favorites.

Spicy Honeyed Canteloupe
Serves ~10 (adjust as necessary – we were having a dinner party and so wanted a big platter)


Ingredients
  • 1 whole canteloupe, seeds removed, sliced
  • 3 T. honey
  • 1 t. hot pepper (I used Aleppo, which has a great texture and is mildly hot.  You could sort of fake it with 1/2 t. sweet paprika and 1/2 t. hot pepper flakes)
  • sprinkle of kosher salt
To prepare:
  1. Put melon on platter, drizzle honey over, then sprinkle pepper and salt.
  2. Serve either cold or at room temperature.
Canteloupe Lemonade
6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • cubed flesh from one canteloupe, pureed in blender with 2-3 T. water
  • 2 c. lemon juice
  • 3/4 – 1 c. sugar, depending on whether the melon is at all sweet
  • water as needed
To make:
  1. For a smooth lemonade, strain the canteloupe through a mesh strainer, add water as needed to get to 6 cups total liquid.  If you don’t mind some texture, you can skip the straining and just add water as necessary to get to 6 cups.
  2. Mix together canteloupe, lemon juice and 3/4 c. sugar.  Stir well to dissolve sugar, then chill and serve.

Vermont Mulligatawny 1

Posted on March 25, 2011 by crankycheryl

I’ve had a cold for a week and all I want is soup.  Spicy soup, especially.  And the other day a can of coconut milk jumped out of the cupboard (probably literally, as you know if you’ve ever seen how I cram things in there) at me, and I had some chicken breast left over from a roast chicken (I always do, since I really don’t like white meat), and before I knew it, mulligatawny was on its way.

You know mulligatawny, right?  It’s the creamy curried soup with chicken and usually rice.  In this case, I had root vegetables about and used those instead; it was a nice change from the other ways we’ve been eating them all winter long.

And the soup was just right for this cold-riddled time of year: creamy, spicy, hearty and great for warming you up from the inside out.  Even our visiting 5-year old neighbor agreed … while E. & Z. were eating frozen Costco pizza and staring at him in a sort of confused surprise.

A couple of cooking notes:

  • I started with cooked leftover chicken, but if yours isn’t cooked, cut it into pieces and brown it well in the first step, removing it before you add the vegetables, and then returning it to the pot to finish cooking in step 4.
  • Go ahead and substitute in other vegetables if you like, but make sure they’re mostly of the mild and savory variety for best flavor.

Vermont Mulligatawny
Serves 3-4

1.  In a big pot, heat until rippling:

  • 3 T. mild oil (I had some palm oil around, which I used for the flavor.  This would also be a good place to use up any ghee or coconut oil you may have.)

Add:

  • 2 carrots, cut into small-ish dice
  • 1 celery root, peeled and cut into small-ish dice
  • 2 potatoes, cut into small-ish dice
  • 1 onion, cut into small-ish dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • one 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced (I was out and added 1 T. ground ginger instead)

3.  Stir, then add to it:

  • 1 T. curry powder

Which is what I totally would have done if I had had it.  Fortunately I had a lot of interesting bits of spices and seeds and things around and got out my awesome molcajete and ground it up instead, using approximately:

  • 1 small dried hot pepper
  • 1 t. cumin seeds
  • 1 t. turmeric
  • 1/2 t. coriander seeds
  • 1 cardamom pod

4.   Add 2 T. water, then cook the vegetable and curry mix over medium-low heat, covered, for 20-30 minutes, or until vegetables are easily pierced with a fork.

5.  Add to the pot:

  • 2 c. cooked chicken, cut into pieces about the same size as the vegetables
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 4 c. chicken stock (or vegetable stock, or water if you must)

Stir well, bring to a boil, then add:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 c. unsweetened coconut milk (if you’re calorie-careful you can use the light version of this)

Stir it some more.

6.  Ladle into bowls and serve, with fresh cilantro, or apple slices, or lemon wedges, if you like.  We had none of these and were just fine.

Miso Roasted Roots & Friends 1

Posted on February 05, 2011 by crankycheryl

At my last winter CSA share pick-up, I had gotten some of these hairy beauties:

A note suggested that they might be best roasted, and that their main winter-storage claim to fame may be that they aren’t at all sweet.  Since, like every aspiring Vermont winter localvore, I’m craving variety this time of year, in the bag they went, where they joined beets, rutabaga, turnips, potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots and parsnips.  And met up with more of the same at home.

There were a lot of them, and something had to be done.

You may know that I think that roasting is one of the very nicest things you can do to a vegetable.   It intensifies flavor and caramelizes sugars, and can be done to just about everything (not leafy vegetables, generally).   Plus it’s a good straight-forward way for a lazy cook like me to end up with some building blocks and variety for the meals of the coming week.

Facing off with the pile of roots and squashes, I decided to roast beets by themselves, butternut squash by itself, and then do a savory tray (potatoes, salsify, rutabaga) flavored with miso, and a sweet tray (carrots, parsnips, turnips) just plain with olive oil and salt.

My approach is a bit convoluted, but not at all fussy.    The goal is to let everything cook for as long as it needs, while being in the kitchen as little as possible.

Here’s how I did it.  Of course, use what you’ve got and make it how you want it.  Maybe you’re planning Italian food and would do garlic and some oregano instead of miso for a savory variety, or want to throw onions onto either tray, or toss them with some teriyaki sauce.  Go for it.

A Trio of Roast Roots, Plus Squash

1.  Preheat oven to 400.   Oil three rimmed baking sheets, and get out one baking dish with an oven-proof, snug-fitting lid.  Get out two large mixing bowls and set aside.

2.  Beets

  • Wash but don’t peel (isn’t this fabulous?) as many beets as can fit in your lidded baking dish in one layer.  Put on the lid and put them in the oven (it’s okay if it hasn’t preheated all the way).  They will need to cook the longest, one-two hours depending on size.

3.  Savory Miso-Roasted Roots

Prepare the salsify:

  • Put 2 T. lemon juice into a medium bowl and add water nearly to top
  • With the lemon-water right at hand, peel and slice 3-4 salsify roots crosswise into chunks about 1 1/2″ long and put immediately into the water bowl to prevent discoloration.

Put it all together by placing in one of the large mixing bowls:

  • 2-3 large potatoes, scrubbed, peel left on, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 rutabaga, peeled, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks
  • the salsify, drained well
  • 2 T. miso paste
  • 2 T. olive oil

Mix thoroughly with your hands, then spread the whole thing out on one of the baking sheets and set aside.

 

4.  Sweet Mix

 

  • 3-4 carrots, scrubbed, peels left on, cut into 1 1/2″ – 2″ chunks crosswise
  • 3-4 parsnips, scrubbed, peels left on, cut into 1 1/2″ – 2′ chunks crosswise
  • 1 turnip, peeled, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt

Mix thoroughly with your hands, then spread the whole thing out on one of the baking sheets.

Put both baking sheets in the oven.  Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice if you think of it.  They’re done when a fork easily pierces a chunk.  The carrots and turnips are the slowest cookers here, so they’re good ones to test.

5.  Butternut Squash

Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and put them in a colander.  Put the squash cut-side-down on the remaining baking sheet.   If your oven is big enough, you can go ahead and put it in now, or else wait until you take out the mixed trays.  This also cooks for about 30 minutes, or until very soft.

6.  Don’t Forget the Beets

When everything on a tray is done, check on the beets by poking the largest one with a fork.   Cook for a while longer if it’s till very firm, and when it is tender, go ahead and turn off the oven.  Leave the beets in there until the oven cools down, then remove and peel them – the peels will slip off in your hands.

If you’re feeling ambitious you can also go ahead and rinse, dry, oil and salt those seeds and put them in the oven once you turn off the heat.  If you do it right when the heat goes off, there’ll be enough warmth to toast them but not enough to burn them.

7.  Using Your Delicious Vegetables

  • Eat them as they are.
  • Puree the butternut squash and turn it into this soup, or you could mix it with some cream and broth and add in some of the other vegetables and some meat or beans for a heartier version.
  • Add pureed butternut squash to baked goods, waffles or the life.
  • Save pureed squash for a fabulous souffle that I’ll be posting this week
  • Slice beets and put them on salads
  • Save beets for the beet-rhubarb recipe I’ll be posting this week

Fabulous Frittata 2

Posted on January 18, 2011 by crankycheryl

In keeping with my 2011 eating plan that focuses solely on protein, fruit and vegetables, I made this for brunch the other day.

I find myself with an anti-carb instinct that causes me to look sort of mistrustfully at potatoes.  But then I reconsidered.  Why not potatoes? I thought.  They’re organic or close to it, and lived their little tuberous lives just a mile from here, down in Burlington’s Intervale. Plus, knowing myself, I realized that if I started putting things on the yes-it’s-a-vegetable-but-I’m-not-allowed-to-have-it list, I’d probably soon follow up with a yes-it’s-junk-food-but-here’s-how-I’ll-justify-it list.

So here this was.  And it was very simple and pretty great.

Fabulous Frittata
Serves 4

1.  Heat in a pan:

  • 2 T. butter and 1 T. high-heat oil (light olive, rice oil, or something else made to take the heat)

2.  Turn the heat to medium and add to the pan:

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 potatoes, scrubbed, peels on, thinly sliced

Cook without turning until golden on bottom side, then flip and spread into an even layer.

3.  Add to pan:

  • About 3 cups well-washed spinach, leaves coarsely chopped if large

Put the lid on the pan and cook for a minute or two to wilt the spinach.  Then sprinkle over the top:

  • 1/4 c. chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil (incidentally, this was the only non-local ingredient)

4.  Pour over the top:

  • 6 large eggs

Cook until bottom starts to set.

5.  Cover the top with:

  • 4 oz. grated cheddar or other cheese.

Put the lid on and cook over medium until thoroughly set and cheese is melted.  Let stand off the heat for a few minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.

The Tagine Less Traveled 1

Posted on November 10, 2010 by crankycheryl

I’m so excited that tomorrow is ECHO’s Food Less Traveled event.  And in celebration of this contest that will be judged not only on taste, presentation and overall experience but also the “food miles” that ingredients have traveled, I offer this fabulous recipe for the aromatic Moroccan stew.  The starring ingredients were from my BFF-ish food sources: beef from Applecheek Farm, a stubbornly alive cardoon plant from Red Wagon Plants, and garlic, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and potatoes from the Intervale.  The lemons, olives, olive oil, ginger and spices made this a lovely celebration of sultry Mediterranean flavors to spice up that good and local stuff.

Of course this would never be able to win a localvore contest, with so much food from afar on the ingredient list.  But it was a pretty darned delightful dinner for these delightful friends:

Plus it was a chance to get to the bottom of the age-old question, “What the heck is a cardoon?,” which is a question you yourself might want to answer if you like that anise-y flavor that artichokes have, or are interested in good, new easy-to-grow things.

Tagine with Beef, Potato & Cardoons
6 servings

1.  Clean 1 or 2 large bunches of cardoon, using these instructions.  Keep in lemon juice until ready to use, marveling at how the enormous pile of leaves resulted in this tiny bit of stems.

2.  Prepare these quick prepared lemons and keep aside.

3.  Heat in a Dutch oven until rippling:

  • 3 T. olive oil

Then add and brown well:

  • 1 lb. grass-fed beef, cut into 3- or 4-inch pieces

4. Add:

  • reserved cardoons
  • 1 onion, chopped medium
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 c. chopped potatoes, peels removed or left on, as you prefer.
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Stir very well, bring to a slow boil, then cover and cook over low heat for 1 1/2 hours.  Check once or twice to make sure it’s not completely dry.

5.  Towards the end of the tagine’s cooking time, chop and combine:

  • 1 preserved lemon, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 c. pitted kalamata or other pungent dark olives
  • 2 T. cilantro leaves
  • 1 T. flat leaf parsley

6.  Remove stew from heat, then stir in lemon mixture.  Let cool for a few minutes, then serve with couscous or crunchy bread.  Good!

Braised Chicken with Fennel & Potatoes 1

Posted on October 05, 2010 by crankycheryl

I was late, late, late to go to our neighbors’ house to watch their kids the other night, but I had a chicken all defrosted and a crisper full of vegetables that needed to be eaten before our next CSA pick-up.

Thank goodness, Molly Stevens’s The Art of Braising has become part of my cooking lexicon, and I knew what I had to do to make a successful braise come together.

So with very little thought, and a great deal of luck that I didn’t lose a fingertip in the chopping, this came together and got into the oven in a little less than half an hour.

Lazy Braised Chicken with Fennel & Potatoes
Serves 4

Preheat oven to 325.

1.  In a dutch oven, or other large pot that can go both on the range and into the oven, melt together until nicely bubbling:

  • 1 T. butter
  • 2 T. olive oil (not extra virgin, which isn’t for cooking)

2.  Generously sprinkle:

  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper – all over
  • 1 5 – 6 lb. chicken

Add to pan, and brown on all sides by leaving the chicken in place for about 5 minutes per side on medium heat.  Don’t wiggle it around too much or you’ll tear the skin and also not get the bronzing that you want.

3.  While the chicken is cooking, prep your vegetables.

Coarsely chop:

  • 1 head fennel  (I use what I call “the cleaver test” to see what’s tender enough to eat.  If my cleaver slices easily through the stalks, I’ll cook with them.  Otherwise save them for stock or compost them.)
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 4 potatoes (I had a mix of white and purple)
  • 1 medium eggplant (I happened to have some around – the dish will be fine without it)

4.  Here’s one of my new favorite time savers for a braise.  Take:

  • 3 cloves of garlic

and leave their skins on and don’t chop.   Put them aside.  You’ll see why in a minute.

5.  When the chicken is browned on all sides, remove to a plate.  Add a little oil if necessary to get a good covering for the bottom of the pan.  Add the vegetables, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.   Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are getting nice and fragrant and starting to wilt.  Add the garlic cloves whole, just tucking them into the vegetables.  The peels have lots of flavor, which they’ll transfer to your braise.  And when you uncover the cloves when you eat, you can just squeeze out the garlic itself, which will have been mellowed by cooking and absorbed all those great flavors.

6.  Add:

  • 1/2 c. dry sherry (or dry white wine)
  • 1/2 c. tomato sauce

Then bring to a boil and let cook for 3 or 4 minutes.  Place the chicken on top, cover with a lid, and place in the middle of the oven.

7.  Cook for about 2 hours, until the juices run clear in the thickest part of the thigh when pierced.   Let the chicken sit for 5 – 10 minutes, then carve and serve with scoops of vegetables.

First CSA Pick-Up of the Summer 2

Posted on June 12, 2010 by crankycheryl

Waiting for the farmers to be ready for the onslaught.

Start of season = many greens.

Our beloved Gerard’s bread.

And equally loved Does Leap.

I love this arbor.  Two years ago the field just beyond it was where the pick-your-own herbs grew.  Last year it hosted strawberries, and this year it’s the flower field.

Beautiful flowers.

Not a ton of food or variety at the start of the season, but still so lovely to return.  Many recipes to come.

Sultry Oven-Roasted Cacciatore with Bacon 3

Posted on February 20, 2010 by crankycheryl

[Update 3/3/10 – this was featured in some extremely delicious company on Photograzing.  Cool!]

I love Lynne Rosetto Kasper, and was happy for her emailed recipe for an oven-roasted chicken cacciatore this week.

But when it was finally time to make it, and I started grabbing things from the freezer and fridge, there were all sorts of things  to use up,.  So dinner evolved into a roasted hybrid of Chicken Cacciatore and Puttanesca ingredients.  Based on dishes named for hunters and prostitutes, I restrained myself from coming up with a much racier name.  Still, this is  a pretty shamelessly seductive dish.

In the foreground, that’s slab bacon (from the wonderful Boucher Family Farm, by the way).  Look at that glisten!  More Vermont goodness made this whole dish shine: Misty Knoll chickenIntervale tomatoes and potatoes, that outrageous bacon.  It’s so nice that mid-winter local doesn’t have to mean root vegetables at every meal.

Sultry Oven-Roasted Chicken Cacciatore with Bacon & Polenta
Serves 4-6

Preheat oven to 400.

Lightly oil 2 rimmed baking sheets.

Place on the sheets:

  • 8 chicken thighs, skin side up
  • 6 large tomatoes (fresh or frozen), cut into quarters
  • 1/4 lb. slab bacon, cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 lb. crimini or baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half
  • 1/2 c. oil-cured olives, pitted
  • If you have them around, you could toss in some quartered potatoes, large-dice green peppers, or unpeeled garlic cloves.
  • Salt on the chicken (the fat & juices from the bacon will salt everything else)

Roast for 30 – 35 minutes (start the polenta after you get the chicken going), rotating the trays after 15 minutes unless you can fit them on the same rack.  The chicken is done when its skin is crisp and golden and its juices run clear.  Use a slotted spoon to scoop the chicken and vegetables into a bowl.  Toss in:

  • 2 T. capers, drained

Polenta

Bring to a boil:

  • 3 c. water
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. olive oil

Mix together until free of lumps:

  • 1 c. water
  • 1 c. cornmeal

When water in pan is at a full boil, pour in the water-corn mixture slowly, stirring constantly and thoroughly.  But watch this – now you don’t have to stir it constantly!  Turn the heat down to very low, give a few firm stirs and let cook gently with no lid for 25 minutes or until done (it will be very thick and will not taste granular or at all raw if you give it a try).

Top with the chicken mixture and serve.

Salad! Flowers! Mwa Ha Ha Ha! 5

Posted on June 11, 2009 by crankycheryl

[6/13/09 Update:  Check out this picture and much more frightfully gorgeous food at Photograzing!]

crazy-hair-and-evil-salad-021So one spring day you’re in your kid’s class during their free choice time, and his friend sits down and starts drawing.  He wants to draw you, he says, and before you know it there you are in a field of grass with the black t-shirt and shorts he had you add in.

Then he puts stripes on your shorts and you ask, “”Dude!  What am I, like a bee?”  And then he’s giggling madly and drawing wings and a stinger on your behind and antennae on your head.  And then he draws flowers and you ask what kind they are and his eyes get big and sincere and he spurts out, “EVIL SORCERER FLOWERS!”  You gasp and he’s giggling again, and you ask if you can bring the picture with you.

And then later you update your Facebook status so it says, “Cheryl says things can’t be all bad if your son’s 6-year-old friend draws you as a bee-girl in a field of Evil Sorcerer flowers.”  Then a food-writer friend you really respect tells you that you owe it to the bees to post a honey recipe.  And then you realize that your CSA share is about to start, and after you pick up your greens and cheese and bread, you go home and make something like this.

Evil Sorcerer Salad with Bee-Girl Dressing

Per diner:

  • 3 cups of spicy greens (arugula, mustards and the like), cleaned
  • 2 strawberries, cut into the shape of broken hearts
  • 1 slice of a nice seedy bread, lightly toasted
  • 2 smallish slices of a brie-type cheese (if you’re local or have access to Vermont cheeses, try Does’ Leap Caprella and gleefully eat whatever isn’t destined to go on someone’s salad)
  • A sprinkle of chipotle powder
  • A handful of edible flowers like pansies and nasturtiums.  Make sure they’re organic, and really try to include the nasturtiums, which are spicy, and therefore more nefarious.

Bee-Girl Dressing (enough for 4 diners):

  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 t. hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
  • 1 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 1/8 t. (a.k.a. “just a little bit”) kosher salt

Whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.  Put cheese on bread, sprinkle with chipotle, and then toast just until warm and melty.  Toss greens with dressing and then put onto plate.  Cut bread/cheese into triangles and place on top of salad, with broken-hearted strawberries in the middle.  Arrange evil sorcerer flowers according to your dastardly plan and serve.  Your own villainous chuckle wouldn’t hurt.

beegirl

Warm Wishes 1

Posted on April 12, 2009 by crankycheryl

lacinata-kaleWith spring being such a tease, I’m finding myself pining for the warm weather.   I’m stubbornly planting seeds, though the wind is blowing cold and I refuse to admit that the white fluff puffing through the air is snow.  I’m picturing our summer evenings at the Intervale Community Farm, with kids in the sandbox and romping through the fields … the goat cheese we’ll pluck out of the cooler each week … the peas and strawberries we’ll be picking.

While I wait, I’m planting my own garden of pretty edible plants – kale and nasturtiums and curly cress and violas.  I’m waiting for the wild lamb’s quarters to appear so I can harvest it for soups and salads and quick sautees.

It’s coming, it’s coming, and in the meantime, here’s a fun recipe that I first came across in a Facebook posting from Julie Rubaud of Red Wagon Plants.  I hear some children actually eat it.  But it’s so good and virtuous that you won’t mind crunching it all up when they’re sitting across the table from you, stricken and with their little hands over their horrified mouths.

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