The Tipping Point

I feel like we’ve reached the tipping point in the turning of the seasons. We had another big haul from WSF, but surely it is the last week for summer favorites like tomatoes and eggplants. New this week: cantaloupe and napa cabbage

I’ve already cooked up a bunch of treats: a mix of new and old dishes:
– Eggplant curry (a recipe from the “From Scratch Club” blog)
– Creamy Garlic Soup
– Crispy Veggie and Brown Rice salad
Kale Chips
Crunchy Coleslaw

Stay tuned for more details on my new recipes above.


Red Cat Pepper Pasta Back Again

In case you didn’t notice, there are a LOT of peppers in this picture

CSA Pick-up 9/22/12. Extreme close up of peppers (bell peppers and jalapenos)

What’s a gal to do with these beauties? I’m all good on the “putting up” front. I’ve got more frozen julienned yellow, red, and green bell peppers than I know what to do with from previous pick-ups.  I thought back to a recipe from the Red Cat restaurant cookbook that Hubs and I used to prepare somewhat regularly. We also used to be Red Cat regulars and remain big fans.

Red Cat cookbook

The recipe for Bucatini with Peppers and Anchovies was salty, savory and full of texture, but always a little greasy.  The recipe also called for Italian frying peppers, which I would never have on hand and would inevitably require a special trip to the store.  Over the years, I’ve also tried to prepare  meals with  protein as the centerpiece, rather than carbohydrates. So the recipe fell to the wayside. But I thought about dusting it off and refreshing it with some of my surplus CSA ingredients.

Here’s how I updated it: I substituted fresh bell peppers for the frying peppers and used a fresh jalapeno in place of the dried chili flakes to add heat. Oh, and I used spaghettini instead of bucatini – bucatini are a long, tubular pasta shape and generally a specialty pasta. I also used less panko than the recipe called for. This, combined with the juicy bell peppers made for a moister dish than previous attempts. This recipe is going back in the rotation, with my recent updates. One tip: don’t be afraid of the anchovies. They lend flavor, saltiness and depth to the sauce. The dish does NOT taste fishy at all. Ask Hubs.


200 grams of spaghettini, or other long, thin pasta that you have on hand
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
6 anchovy fillets, minced
2 large red, orange and/or yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced lengthwise
4-5  pepperoncini  (the chartreuse-colored, jarred peppers you find in the grocery), sliced horizontally
1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and minced
1/4 cup panko, or dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmiggiano
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes (about 1/8 teaspoon)
Handful chopped parsley
1/2 lemon


Cook the pasta according to the package directions to al dente doneness.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wide, deep, heavy saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and anchovies and cook for about 3 minutes, mashing the anchovies until they disintegrate. Add the bell peppers and jalapeno and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring, until the peppers soften. Add the pepperoncini, stir and remove the pan from the heat.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, pepper flakes and parsley.

When the pasta is nearly done, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. I recommend using a glass measure cup, because it has a handle and you can scoop up the water easily without burning yourself. When pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the pan with the anchovy and pepper mixture. Add half of the the bread crumb mixture, along with a splash of the pasta water. Squeeze the lemon half over the pan, using a small strainer or your hand to catch any seeds, and toss to combine.

Divide the pasta among shallow serving bowls. Top with remaining bread crumb mixture and serve. Add a splash of olive oil if pasta is dry.

Yield: 2 generous servings


Kale Chips Revisited

Kale Chips are nothing new, but I had yet to master them. Everyone says they’re “so easy to make,” so you can imagine how I felt when my batch last summer turned out south of mediocre. With a beautiful bunch of freshly picked kale from WSF staring at me, I knew it was time to try again. Also, I had to prepare the kale as a stand-alone dish. Despite its elite status as a super food, some people just don’t like it.

So with a clear head and calm mind, I embarked on my kale chip adventure, pushing aside the rest of the madness in my kitchen. I followed this recipe from the White on Rice Couple. In fact, it was very simple. Their blog has great photos, to boot. See below.

Preparing Kale Chips from

I washed, rinsed and dried the kale leaves, and removed the spine (the most tedious part, as pictured above on left). I then put the broken up leaves in a large bowl, drizzled some olive oil, a dash of kosher salt and cheyenne pepper. I used my hands to make sure the oil was evenly distributed on the leaves and  so as not to have to use too much.  I prepared 2 cookie sheets with a layer of parchment paper and then laid the kale leaves on the paper in a single layer. Bake at 300 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Verdict: Big winner. The kale chips are tasty and crunchy, even slightly addictive. It warmed my heart to hear 2 1/2 year old Sam say, “more kale chips, mommy”

Hurry Before it’s too Late! Pesto Now

Another friendly reminder that the window for making pesto is closing. At least for those of us that live in northern, temperate US climates. Our herb garden is in zone 5 for hardiness, and we’ve already had some early frost warnings. You can check your zone on this map.

Herb Garden from Rural Intelligence

This article from Rural Intelligence offers more inspiration on pesto varieties, above and beyond the parsley pesto and pesto al genovese I’ve already written about. Kale, arugula, you name it. Check it out.

Epilogue: Night Out at Northern Spy

A quick epilogue on our meal at Northern Spy Food Co in the East Village.  The name of the restaurant is taken from a local NY state heirloom variety of apples. We tried to pick some this weekend during an apple-picking expedition at Windy Hill Farm in Great Barrington, MA, but no dice.

Windy Hill Farm in Great Barrington, MA on Saturday, September 22, 2012

I liked this sign.

Saturday Night Protein

Not quite Saturday Night Fever, but what can I say. This is a picto-graphic of dinner for 2 at our house on Saturday night. Pick your protein and shared sides:

  • My Pescatarian’s delight dinner: Roasted Arctic Char with Fresh Herbs. I marinated the Arctic Char in a mustard-y vinagrette and then roasted in the oven for about 12 minutes.

Roasted Arctic Char with Fresh Herbs

  • Hubs’s dinner – for the meat-lovers. I think it’s a strip steak – Hubs?

Pan-seared Steak with Red-wine Reduction

  • Served with Smashed WSF Fingerling Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic – delightful. Must convince Hubs to guest blog and share this recipe.

Smashed Fingerling Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic

  • And a salad of hyper-local curly endive from our very own veggie patch to cleanse the palate. Dressed with same vinaigrette used to marinate the Arctic Char

Curly Endive Salad

  • Paired with a red Zinfandel we picked up on a trip to Sonoma a few years ago from DaVero, renowned for their delicious olive oils.

2008 DaVero Zinfandel


Masochism in the Kitchen

So with my massive haul from Wolfe Spring Farm, I had to get cracking on Saturday afternoon.

CSA Pick-up 9/22/12. Photo styling courtesy of Hubs

With the crisp evenings we’ve been having, I felt some sort of soup was in order and so the planning began. Soup is always a good way to use lots of veg, and forgiving, too. After some deliberation with Hubs, I decided on a Minestrone-style Vegetable Soup. This would be my lead dish for the weekend. I mapped out my other dishes and figured out which ingredients I could prep simultaneously. I would prep the ingredients for the vegetable soup and Freekeh Pilaf at the same time, since I could chop onions and garlic for both dishes in one shot.

Timing was also a factor, so I decided to put up some of the vegetables because it would be impossible to consume all in the week. The veggies are organic, and most have a short shelf life. I would freeze the bell peppers and roasted eggplant (must chop all peppers first, and grill the eggplant), as suggested by Agrigirl in a comment last week. And the tomatoes would turn into Sweet Tomato Jam, but not until Sunday.

And lastly, why not make some kale chips?

At one point, I had 5 dishes going in various stages of preparation in the sink, on the stove, in the oven and on the grill. Controlled chaos at best. Or, why chefs and cooks who do this, day in, day out, impress me to no end. Like I said, it was my own personal form of self-torture. If I knew how to insert a table into this post, I’d have a matrix with the following headers: Ingredients, Dish, Cooking Method. That’s how much I had goin’ on. And this didn’t even include Saturday night dinner!

The good news is that the “lead” dish du jour, the Vegetable Soup, turned out delicious. I call it Minestrone-style because I used tomatoes and it has a light tomato base, but I didn’t use any beans or pasta, which you usually find in a Minestrone soup. Here is my recipe, and like most others, consider it a starting point and alter it based on what you have in your cupboard.


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium or large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 carrot diced,
2 stalks celery, chopped (I didn’t use because we didn’t have any, but highly recommend)
8 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth for the carnivores)
1 cup tomatoes, chopped, cored and seeded
2 small potatoes,  diced in 1/2 inch,
1 Parmiggiano cheese rind (I keep the rinds in a plastic bag in the back of my fridge. Use in risottos and soups, add great flavor)
1 cup winter squash, diced (I used spaghetti squash and surprisingly, turned out great. Had never used it in a soup)
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 cup shredded cabbage (left over from last week’s pick-up. A head of cabbage goes a looong way)
Large handful of parsley, leaves only, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


In large soup pot, on low-medium heat, saute onions and garlic for 5 minutes in olive oil. Add carrots and celery and continue to saute until vegetables are softened.  Add potatoes, squash and bell pepper (or whichever “hard” vegetables you are using – turnips, parsnips would also be great). Saute for 2-3 minutes to give vegetables some color.

Sauteed “hard” vegetables in the pot

Add liquid – broth and chopped tomatoes, and Parmiggiano rind, if using. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes, or until “hard” vegetable soften. Add cabbage and parsley (or other “soft” vegetables or greens, like zucchini, kale, collard greens, etc). Season with salt and pepper, simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool. Serve with shredded Parmiggiano cheese and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.

Yield: 6 – 8 servings

Minestrone-style Vegetable Soup

What’s left in the basket from my CSA Pick-up? Cauliflower, a cucumber, cherry tomatoes (I was greedy with these), watermelon, raspberries (not worried about the fruit) and 2 shiitake mushrooms. Looking for suggestions for the shiitake mushrooms and cauliflower. Any ideas?

Freekeh: The Best Grain You’ve Never Tasted

Who has tasted Freekeh? It is a very old grain, like farro, that is also very good for you (like farro). It is green wheat that has gone through a roasting process.   It is high in protein, insoluble fiber, has a low glycemic index and is tasty, to boot. Freekeh can be prepared like rice, or most other whole grains, and used in similar recipes. It has a nice bite to it, and slightly nutty taste. You can find it in the bin foods section of some grocery or health foods stores, or pre-packaged (harder to find, I think). What’s not to like, right?

I prepared the Freekeh on Saturday and we had it for lunch on Sunday.  I decided on a Freekeh Pilaf, which is a traditional preparation. I added cherry tomatoes  because I had picked up the sweetest, juiciest yellow cherry tomatoes EVER from Wolfe Spring Farm.

Cherry Tomatoes at Wolfe Spring Farm

They were like little jewels, so I used them as the “fruit” in this pilaf recipe to add sweetness and moisture. If you don’t have sweet tomatoes, no worries. Just add some chopped dried fruit. I riffed on this recipe from the This is How I Cook blog that I found over the weekend. This was a big crowd-pleaser.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion,  chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, diced and seeded
1 handful walnuts, chopped (or pistachios or almonds)
1c freekeh
2c vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2t cumin
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped  (optional)
Fresh parsley to garnish (or cilantro or mint)
Saute the onion, garlic, and jalapeno pepper  in olive oil. When they start to sweat (about 5 min), stir in the nuts. Brown them just a little. Stir in the freekeh. Let cook a minute. Stir in broth. Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer. Cover. Check after about 20 minutes. It should be done but if you want it softer add a bit more liquid and cook a little longer.

Freekeh Pilaf

Season with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley (or cilantro or mint – whatever you have on hand). Add chopped tomatoes and/or dried apricots, if available. Think of this as any pilaf recipe because all you have to do is substitute the grain. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Unlikely bedfellow: tomatoes, vanilla and JAM

Decided to do something completely unconventional with my 3 pounds of tomatoes. Like many folks, we are burnt out on fresh tomato sauce, bruschetta, and tomato salads by this time of the year. So I decided to to give this intriguing recipe for Sweet Tomato Jam posted on the NY Times a whirl.

I was skeptical, but it is a good one. Melissa Clark does not disappoint. The refrigerator jam is super sweet and savory simultaneously. Beautiful color, and really easy to prepare once you put some elbow grease into chopping up 3 pounds of tomatoes. I made a few modifications, like using less honey than the recipe called for simply because I ran out, and vanilla extract because I didn’t have any vanilla beans on hand. I also added a few dried red chili peppers to add some heat to balance the sweetness. I’ve included my version below. Of course, I have no idea how we will consume all this scrumptious jam…rather, I fear I will consume it all on my own.


3 pounds firm ripe tomatoes, cored and diced (about 8 cups)
1/2 cup honey
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons vanilla
2-3 dried red chili peppers (optional)
Pinch fine sea salt

Combine all ingredients in large stainless steel pot, or other non-reactive material. Bring to simmer and let cook for 1 hour 30 minutes, or until jammy consistency reached.

Sweet Tomato Jam bubbling on the stove

Taste and add additional salt if needed to balance flavor. Spoon into glass jars and let cool before refrigerating.

Yield: 3 half-pint jars

For canning instructions, see NY Times recipe

CSA Pick-up 9/22/11: masochism

Hello people, as Baby Sam would say. Another red letter day at Wolfe Spring Farm. New this week: watermelon, shiitake mushrooms, kale and cauliflower

Here’s what we prepared today:
– Freekeh Pilaf
– Minestrone soup (100% local, ex tr olive oil and parmiggiano)
– Smashed fingerling potatoes and garlic
– Kale Chips
– Roasted Eggplant
– Insalata Caprese

That’s where the masochism comes in. And I’ve still got 3 pounds of tomatoes left – yellow cherry tomatoes and standard red tomatoes. Any suggestions other than tomato sauce?