Market Menu: September 2

I don’t have any idea how we got to September already. I mean, SEPTEMBER?! Where did July and August go? Every year, the summer seems to fly by, and I find myself wondering if it was all just a dream. But then those tomatoes keep coming, and I know it wasn’t a dream. (though with our weather forecast tonight, those tomatoes might need some cover soon!)

What should you expect to see this weekend at the Bloomington market?

The return of some salad greens! Arugula, lettuce, and some other cooler-weather (spring/fall) greens, in addition to kale. Also, the return of some cooler-weather vegetables like radishes, cucumbers, carrots, beets, and swiss chard. Plus, all the midsummer veg like tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, eggplant, onions, scallions and herbs.

So, what could we make from a market haul?

Breakfasts:

Is there anything at the market this week that might change your breakfast selections? I’m not above having toast with butter or cream cheese and tomato for breakfast… or for second breakfast, or elevenses. Enjoy those beauties while you can!

Slightly cooler weather, even a temporary string of it, definitely makes me think of hot cereal in the morning. Don’t forget about those berry preserves and syrups you made while the berries were coming so quickly! They make a tasty addition to oatmeal, cream of wheat, cream of rice, or any other hot cereal.

If you’re in the mood for something hearty, these breakfast frittata squares from the Food Network might have to be a weekend freezer prep, they look so simple and good. And I can’t imagine why the squares couldn’t be shrink-wrapped and frozen. You’d have to experiment with thawing and heating temperatures and time, but my first instinct would be to thaw overnight and heat in the microwave for about 40 seconds. They look eminently portable though, and that’s a huge plus.

Mark Bittman first made a name for himself as a food critic in the New York Times and has recently become an evangelist of a “mostly plant-based” diet. Check out his ideas for breakfast bread pudding and other unique breakfast ideas (recipes in the article). You can easily sub the fruit in the recipes for whatever is in season.

If your weekend includes hosting guests for brunch or a snack, check out these easy lime buttermilk scones. (I vote for adding a handful of ripe, seasonal berries, too.) Local buttermilk is available from Kilgus Farms at Common Ground Grocery and Green Top Grocery.

Lunches:

Are you a fan of Medici in Normal? It’s easy to make their popular Moroccan Ragout at home, and it takes to variations very easily. A close match is the harira recipe on Epicurious. Although this recipe uses chicken, I usually leave it out (doing so makes it a very close cousin to the Medici soup).  Add zucchini or some diced potatoes for additional heft and flavor.

You know what’s great about your having already bought local buttermilk for scones? (See: breakfast.) We are headed into prime lettuce season once again, and you might be craving a great bibb salad with homemade creamy dressing. In this quick recipe, you can use those precious summer tomatoes (and, really, any kind of sturdier lettuce lead will work great). If salad is your midday meal, you could also add chick peas (or any bean) or chicken for protein.

We’re still inundated with summer vegetables, and this is the time to enjoy them (they’ll be gone pretty soon!). Peppers are prolific right now. You can toss chicken or beans into any of these raw sweet bell pepper salads:

Mediterranean Pepper Salad

Roasted Red Pepper Salad with Feta (tips on roasted red peppers here).

Broccoli and Pepper Salad

Dinners:

Cooler weather inspires us to bake and to cook satisfying, one-pot meals – I’m thinking chili and cornbread. Chili is so flexible (we know, we know! Please don’t report us to the Texans…) and you can pile in the veggies. Get inspired by summer vegetable black bean chili or beef and summer squash chili. Here is a summer vegetable and pork chili that you can do in your slow cooker while you’re at the Labor Day BBQ.

And you can’t have chili without buttermilk jalapeño cornbread…yet another justification for that buttermilk.

Use those radishes that are coming back as a topping for your chili or slice them in a cucumber radish salad on the side.

And then there is THIS chili-lime melon salad. I will leave it at that.

 

Saving Summer: Roasted Red Peppers

peppers 4

School has started, and the weather lately has been decidedly fall-like. But don’t let the cool breezes fool you: this is prime time for peppers and other height-of-summer vegetables. You’ll find piles of sweet bell peppers at the market right now.

No one ever minds eating them raw (plain, or with hummus or yogurt dip, etc.) but if you’ve got an hour or so you can char them in the oven, slip off the peels, and stack them in freezer-safe containers to brighten the grey winter days.

In the last few years, I’ve scaled back some of the cooking and preserving that I do every summer. One thing that I never miss, though, is restocking my freezer with roasted sweet peppers. Like my parents did when I was growing up, I make pots of sauce for pasta all year round. We always freeze a container or two from each batch for later. My mom, my dad, and I have each developed our own individual stamps on the sauce we make. My dad favors a heavier dose of dried oregano. My mom often makes meatballs, but neither of them put meat in the sauce. I always use crushed fennel seed and a chunk of the roasted red peppers from the freezer.

You can roast peppers very easily in the oven or even on the grill. (I am partial to the oven method myself.) I lay the peppers out on a cookie sheet – plain, no oil, just clean peppers – and turn the broiler on. Periodically (say, every 5 minutes) I peek to see if they are getting charred, and using a set of oven-safe tongs I turn the peppers over so that all sides get roasted and the skins start to bubble up.

Once all of the peppers are roasted, use tongs to put them into a bowl and cover it with a large plate to steam for a few minutes. Remove the plate. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, you can slip the skins off and pull the stem out (if needed). I usually do that and pile them on the cutting board, where I can portion them into containers for the freezer.

There is plenty of advice out there for roasting peppers, so check out your options.

What can you do with your roasted peppers? Here are some ideas:

Red Pepper Hummus

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Tomato and Pepper Soup

(Lots of soup ideas out there)

Or…add to your favorite pasta sauce!

Enjoy.

 

peppers 3

 

 

Saving Summer: Aronia Berries

It’s late, late August…so I might be getting a wee bit nostalgic already for summer foods. I know they’ll soon be gone.

This photo is a snapshot of a berry syrup I made. It’s also sitting in front of bowls containing two other ephemeral pleasures: fresh peaches and tomatoes.

Aronia

I have come to appreciate the joy that comes from “seasonal mindfulness” (I made that up…it means enjoying those summer treasures in the moment, without obsessing over saving them for later). But sometimes on a cold, grey day, you just want to be reminded of the best of summer foods. Because canning is time consuming, I have never really tried it. I usually stick to things I can freeze (roasted tomatoes or peppers) that things that will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, like quick pickles, sauces, etc.

Last Saturday I was (easily) talked into buying two cups of local aronia berries, which I’ve had in jam form before (made by a local farmer and sold at the Thanksgiving Market). But I decided the quickest thing I could make with this amount was a sauce on the stove.

Aronia berries are really tart, and I had a handful of blueberries in the fridge that were about to go bad, so I tossed those in the saucepan, too. The recipe I used also calls for lemon, but I only had lime – it turned out great!

It only made a small amount but it’s really lovely – not overly sweet, and the touch of ginger and vanilla adds depth. I’m interested in the medicinal qualities of ginger, plus I like the taste, but you could easily leave it out. I also strained the sauce, but you could keep it chunky.

I’ve been spreading this on toast this week, but you could also put it on plain yogurt, on pancakes, waffles, or French toast.

I’ll be looking for more aronia berries at the market next week!

The Freezer Chronicles: Quesadilla Edition

I’ve been working on prepping more freezable meals for this busy fall season; some tested recipes, some soups and sauces, and some total experiments. This experiment is so tasty, that I just had to post the recipe!

I’ve made breakfast burritos for the freezer before, with egg & cheese, sausage and egg, and some with rice. These were intended to be really meaty, hearty dinners, so I started with a rough estimate of amounts of each ingredient, calculated the nutritional information, and started prepping — and then adjusted as follows.

Beef:
Starting with 2# of 90%/10% ground beef, cook in a skillet (cast iron is excellent for this), with no added fat. When it’s nearly all cooked, add a packet of of your favorite taco seasoning (I used Ortega, which is supposed to be a packet for 1# of meat, but ok as I didn’t want these super spicy). Mix in well, and cook until browned. Turn off the heat, scoop the meat into a bowl and weigh it (for portioning later) For what it’s worth, it lost 4 oz in cooking (1# 12 oz. cooked), and I calculated the nutritional information (using Calorie King) based on the cooked weight.

Sauteed Vegetables:
After cleaning the grill pan, heat with 1 T. olive oil on medium-high, and add 1 medium yellow onion, chopped. Once the onion starts to soften a bit, add the peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Or you can do them all at once, but I like my grilled onion a little more caramelized. When they’re done (nice and brown on the edges), dump in a bowl, and decide whether to weigh or measure or just eyeball it later. I recommend doing one of the two, so that you distribute everything evenly. Then repeat with the mushrooms, but without adding any more oil to the pan. Note: before you add these to the tortillas, you may want to drain the vegetables, as they’ll release some liquid while they wait.

Assembly:
I used medium-sized tortillas — they were labeled for burritos, but they’re not the giant burrito wraps. I think they’re 8″ in diameter. See, my intention had been to make burritos, but that was a big FAIL — there was just too much stuff to wrap up. Oops! So my sister had the brilliant idea to just fold in half and call them quesadillas. Brilliant! They’re stuffed full, but they actually hold together really well as fold-overs.

First thing is to spoon out some refried black beans, and spread onto half the tortilla. You can weigh each spoonful, or just eyeball it after the first couple. Then add 4 oz of the ground beef, 1/2 c. of the sauteed vegetables, and 1 oz. of the shredded cheddar cheese. Spread everything out as much as you can; it’ll make it easier to close.  I found it worked well to have one small bowl for the meat and one for the cheese, and just pre-weigh a portion of each before starting on the next tortilla.

Carefully fold in half, trying to keep everything inside. Wrap tightly in cellophane, place in a large freezer bag, and freeze. That’s it!

 Ingredients Protein   Carbs  Fat  Calories
4 oz ground beef (90% lean) 30 0 7.4 194
2.25 oz refried black beans 3.2 9.6 1.3 58
1 oz shredded cheddar 6.5 1.1 9.8 120
1/2 c. sauteed mushrooms, onions & peppers  1 4.2  8.4  13
tortilla 5 30 5 190
totals: 44.7 40.7 23.5 562

To thaw and warm:
Unwrap each quesadilla (this is important – don’t microwave your saran wrap!) and defrost in microwave for 1.5 – 2 minutes on 50% power (your microwave may vary on times). Once thawed, place in a hot skillet until it’s slightly crispy, before carefully flipping to repeat on the other side. Don’t rush this part; the crispy tortilla is one of the best parts. We’ve enjoyed ours served with some chopped lettuce and tomato and cilantro, and sour cream.

The nutritional information above might make this recipe look rigid, but you can make yours however you’d like, to meet your needs. Use ground turkey, or chopped chicken, or eliminate the beans if you don’t like them. And 1 oz of cheese isn’t a lot, so you might want to bump that up, or bring down the amount of the ground beef (it’s a beefy recipe!)

If you make them with variations, let us know on our facebook page!

 

Leek and Potato Soup

I have to admit, I don’t think I had ever a) tasted, or b) cooked leek and potato soup until just a few years ago. I’m not actually sure I’d ever had a leek before then! But my friends whom I gardened with raved about leek season, and about the soup in particular, and finally I got up the interest/nerve/time to try it. Or to look at recipes, at least!

Some recipes I like:

Alton Brown’s Leek Potato Soup Recipe

New York Times Golden Leek and Potato Soup

Serious Eats’ Food Lab: Potato and Leek Soup

 

I don’t know what I’d been waiting for, honestly! It was really fast and delicious. You can make it quite creamy or less so, but it doesn’t require any sort of fussing-over or precise measurement. Just cook and blend, and you can toss it in the freezer for later.

A basic ratio to use for this soup is 1 # leeks, 1 # potatoes (yukon gold or russets, or a combination of both), a knob of butter, 1 c. heavy cream (or half and half, or not), 1 qt chicken or veg stock, and some herbs (bay, or parsley/celery, or chives, though a touch of nutmeg can also be delicious!).

On our Facebook Live video, we used:

  • 822g of yukon gold potatoes,
  • 700g of leeks, and
  • about 3T of butter,
  • a quart of chicken stock,
  • salt and pepper to finish

No cream! We’ll freeze this, as it made about 6 qts? of soup – which is more than we can eat in the next few days!

When we thaw and re-heat it, I’ll probably add about 1c of milk or 1/2 c of half & half and 1/2 c. of water to thin it a bit.

 

 

Putting Up, Putting Away, Saving for Later: Freezer Edition

Now that summer is REALLY here, you might start to feel a bit overwhelmed by all this fresh produce, and concerned about your ability to use it right away?

This post is all about freezing some of that harvest for later — whether that’s next week, next month, or mid-winter. Freezing is one of the easiest ways to save fresh produce, and requires the least amount of equipment.

I use my Food Saver vacuum/sealing machine quite often in late summer and fall, but you can effectively pack produce for the freezer without a machine. Simply buy the bags intended for sealing machines, use a tea towel and an iron to seal the bags (cotton setting), carefully pressing the extra air out first with your hand or a small pillow. Be sure to put the towel between the bag and your iron, or risk having the plastic stick to your iron!

 

What to Freeze?
Some things freeze well, others less so. In general, you have to plan for a loss of texture: vegetables will be less crisp (if at all), fruit will get a bit soft. But if you’re going to cook your items after freezing, you’ll hardly notice the difference. So consider freezing things that you’ll use later to make jam, pie, soup, or stir-fries.

How to Freeze?
Vegetables require blanching first, to slow breakdown. This chart provides a great overview of techniques and times. Make sure to get your fruit or veg dry before freezing, and arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet or plate (once frozen, seal in bags or other containers). I’ve skimped on this single-layer step before, when I plan on making jam with berries within a few weeks — to no ill effect.

Fruits:

  • Berries freeze very well. Trim off stems, wash and sort through, picking out any that aren’t ripe or are rotted or otherwise not great. You can spread them on a tray in the freezer and bag later, or just bag. When ready to use, just put out on the counter for a few hours. If you’re making jam or pies, top the berries with the sugar you’ll be using in the recipe. It’ll soak in while the berries are thawing.
  • Peaches and Plums do well, but be sure to wash and trim off any bruised spots first, and cut in half and remove the pit.
  • Similarly with apples, clean and trim as necessary first. If you have one of those old-fashioned looking hand-crank peeler/corer/slicers, they’re excellent for getting apples ready for applesauce or pies later.

Vegetables:

  • If you like to make stock for soup, you can freeze the trimmings from your vegetables until you’re ready to make the stock. Just add to a plastic bag over time.
  • Onions, celery and peppers don’t freeze particularly well, but I’ve washed and chopped them up and frozen for use within a month or two. Drying is better for preserving their flavor, though.
  • Broccoli, green beans, and brussels sprouts can all be frozen after washing and trimming, and cutting to whatever size you’ll want to cook them in.

Fresh Herbs:

  • hardier/woodier herbs:  freeze in ice cubes (rosemary, thyme, tarragon)
  • more delicate herbs: freeze in olive oil as a paste (basil, cilantro, also garlic scapes!) Put in food processor with olive oil and garlic, salt & pepper — no cheese or nuts, though; add those after thawing, if desired. Put the paste into silicone ice cube trays and freeze, then remove and seal in freezer bag.

Prepping meals:

  • burritos – super-easy! Get all your ingredients together, make individual burritos, wrap with parchment and store in plastic bags.
  • breakfast burrito bowls – similar to above; scrambled eggs, cooked sausage, salsa, cheese, etc. all work well!
  • bread (sliced) – thaw on the counter or in the fridge for several hours before trying to use, unless toasting right away
  • quickbreads & muffins – thaw on the counter or in the fridge for several hours, or thaw and warm in the oven at low temp
  • soups (keep it EASY — saute or roast your favorite veggie, add aromatics, add broth, stick blend, freeze in freezer bags

Prepping Ingredients for Easier Meals Later:

  • Mirepoix (chopped carrots, celery, and onions) – you’ll lose the crunch, but it’s very handy for a stormy day when you don’t want to leave the house to stock up.
  • Eggs – did you know that you could freeze eggs, either whole or separately as whites and yolks?!  If you find yourself with extra whites after making a custard, or extra yolks after making macarons, follow the instructions from the American Egg Board for freezing. Just be sure to label the whites, if you’re freezing them individually. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled a small jar out of the freezer, thinking it was egg whites, and it turned out to be lemon juice!
  • Grains like wheat berries, farro and rice freeze quite well after cooking. They can be really useful to have on hand for cooking during a busy work week, if you cook and freeze in portions before hand.
  • Marinara – this is one of my favorite things about fall; make up a giant batch of marinara, freeze in 2 c. portions in freezer bags, and stock that freezer! You’ll never buy jarred marinara again!

What else have you frozen (and thawed) successfully? We’d love to hear from you!