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Hot Sauce is Cool

Do you have a handful of shriveled chili peppers at the bottom of last week’s CSA box? And now a new CSA full of more chilies? Make hot sauce and use them up! Late summer and early fall is hot sauce season. Almost all the ingredients you need are available now from Vermont and New Hampshire farm stands and farmers’ markets.

Homemade hot sauce is easy and delicious. Also, it’s super cool.

My dad makes a sweet and vinegary hot sauce that can sit on the shelf for months, corroding the lid of the jar and getting more and more delicious. I grew up eating it on fried eggs and stir fries. After spending a year working in a barbecue restaurant, I started making my own versions. Now I make a few different kinds each August and September with whatever hot peppers are around.

There are so many ways to make hot sauce – ingredients and technique vary widely by culture and household. You can ferment it (like Sriracha and Tabasco) or use vinegar (like the recipe below). You can keep it plain or add sweetener and other flavors (herbs, fruit, oils, and spices). You can cook the peppers or leave them raw. Make what you like! A quick Internet search brings up a huge range of hot sauce recipes if you are looking for a specific style.
Most of my hot sauces are secret preparations, and sometimes the peppers just tell me what to do. But here’s a very simple formula for making your own.

The first step is to put on a pair of disposable gloves. Hot peppers will burn your skin for longer than they burn your mouth. I have made hot sauce without gloves with mixed results, but that habit ended abruptly after I spent most of a hot summer night last August lying on hot-pepper-herb-sauces-credit-julia-a-reed-2my bed alternately clutching a cold washcloth with both hands and dipping my fingers in ice water while trying to catch snatches of sleep.

If you are fearful of your hot sauce being too hot, remove the seeds and white membrane that holds the seeds and just use the pepper flesh. Absolutely wear gloves for this.

 

Simple Fresh Hot Sauce Recipe

Makes about 1 ½ to 2 cups

Ingredients

10 – 15 chili peppers, any kind
1/2 sweet bell pepper (OPTIONAL)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
4 garlic cloves
teaspoon sea salt
1-2 tablespoon sugar or maple syrup

Directions

  1. Put on a pair of disposable gloves.
  2. Wash the peppers and cut off the stems.
  3. If you want a hotter sauce, leave the seeds in. For a milder but still hot sauce, split the peppers lengthwise and remove seeds and the white membrane.
  4. Puree peppers and all the other ingredients in food processor or blender.
  5. Taste and adjust salt, sugar, garlic, and vinegar as needed. If it’s too thin, add more peppers and puree some more. If it’s too thick, add more vinegar.
  6. Pour into a clean jar and store in the fridge and eat within a few weeks.

hot-pepper-herb-sauces-credit-julia-a-reed-4

Shelf life of hot sauce

I don’t have one simple answer for this, but in general, if you have a lot of vinegar in the sauce, you can keep the sauce for a long time. What’s enough? Enough that it tastes pretty sour and is fairly thin, like commercial hot sauce. If you want to keep that fresh not-too-sour taste, use less vinegar and use up the hot sauce within a couple weeks. If you ferment or cook the hot sauce and use a sterilized jar for storage, the sauce may last longer. Discard if the hot sauce grows mold, gets slimy or discolored, or develops an off taste or smell.

– Bethany Fleishman

Photo credit: Julia A. Reed

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Using Up Wilty Herbs

You know those bunches of herbs that collect at the bottom of the fridge crisper? They get wilty and we feel guilty for not having the time and motivation to use them faster. But don’t worry and don’t throw them away. Instead, wash them, compost any yellowed or gross-looking leaves, pat them dry, and toss them in a food processor with garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Use this delicious green sauce as a dip for chips or crusty bread. Or with the addition of some vinegar or citrus juice, use it as a marinade for pork chops or steak. Add it to salad dressing or hot-pepper-herb-sauces-credit-julia-a-reed-14put it on pizza crust or polenta pie with some feta and onions. Or add ground toasted nuts and grated Parmesan for a pasta topping. Have too much? Freeze it for later and now you have the beginnings of a quick meal.

What can you use for green sauce?
– parsley or cilantro leaves and stems
– other soft herbs like marjoram
– arugula
– kale
– and of course the traditional pesto ingredient, basil
– a mix of any or all of these is good too

Real pesto from Genoa, Italy is traditionally made using a marble mortar and pestle with basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, Parmesan and pecorino sardo cheeses and olive oil. I don’t like to mess with tradition. However, I DO think that it’s okay to make something out of what you have in front of you, which is why I call my parsley and sunflower seed green sauce “New England Pesto.” (On the topic of authenticity in food versus following the original spirit of a dish, I like this article by chef and food writer J. Kenji López-Alt.)

New England Pesto (with Parsley & Sunflower Seeds)

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:

3 cups loosely packed fresh parsley, including stems – flat-leafed variety preferred*
1/3 cup sunflower seeds, toasted in a dry pan or 350° oven until golden brown
2 large garlic cloves, grated or mashed
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (OPTIONAL)

Directions:pesto-cropped

Knife option
1. Chop parsley finely with a sharp knife.
2. Grind the toasted sunflower seeds in a mortar and pestle.
3. Add to parsley and mix in salt, garlic, pepper, olive oil, and Parmesan if using.
4. Adjust seasonings and olive oil as necessary.

Food processor option
1. Add all the ingredients together and process until smooth. 2. Adjust seasonings and olive oil as necessary.

Serve on pasta, veggies, or on a slice of bread.

*You can substitute other herbs and greens you may have around – see above.

– Bethany Fleishman

Photo credit: Julia A. Reed and Vital Communities staff

plump purple eggplant in bin by SC, 2008

Easy Eggplants

I’m sharing my two favorite ways to cook eggplant. They’re both easy and interesting, and are a good way to make eggplant delicious.

The first is simply to slice an eggplant lengthwise – from stem to bottom – into 1/2 inch slices. Salt and oil the slices well on both sides, and spread on a baking sheet, place on an oven rack near the heating element, and roast on the BROIL setting until one side is golden brown. This only takes a few minutes! Then flip each slice with a fork and broil on the other side. You know they’re done when a fork pierces the flesh like a chainsaw through butter. Under-cooked eggplant is like eating a wet sock, so aim for a golden, almost crisp outside and a creamy inside. Plenty of oil makes them delicious and brown well.

Now take them out, let them cool enough to handle, then chop into chunks (leaving the skin on) and throw into pasta sauce, onto pizza or sandwiches, or with dressing for a salad.

Okay, now for the impressive but easy eggplant dish in the style of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean mothers and grandmothers. This is essentially what’s known in Arabic as baba ganoush, the famous smoked eggplant spread for pita.

Do you have access to an open flame, either a gas stove, a grill, or an open fire? Great. If not, I have directions for using an oven, though it won’t have the smoky taste.

Smoky Eggplant Spread (baba ganoush)

Ingredients

  • 1 large or several small eggplants, any variety, 1 to 1 1/2 pounds total
  • the juice and grated rind of half a lemon, or lime if that’s on hand
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large clove of garlic, smashed or grated
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, or more
  • Small bunch of chopped parsley or cilantro
  • Freshly ground pepper, dash of cayenne, or chopped fresh smokey-eggplant-spread-croppedhot pepper (OPTIONAL)
  • Spoonful of sesame tahini (OPTIONAL)

Directions

Open flame method
1. Place whole raw eggplant(s) onto a grill or DIRECTLY over the low flame of your gas stove.
2. Let the skin closest to the flame char, then slowly rotate the eggplant with a pair of tongs until the whole thing is blackened and very soft. DON’T LEAVE IT UNATTENDED!
3. Make sure you get the eggplant ends and all sides blackened and soft. Juices may drip out, and that’s okay – just wipe up the stove afterwards.
4. Transfer the eggplant (now floppy and burnt) to a cutting board to cool.
5. When it’s cool enough to handle, chop off the stem and peel away the charred skin with your fingers or a butter knife. Leaving a few flecks of blackened skin is fine – it’s hard to get it all off!
6. Finely chop the flesh and transfer it to a large bowl.

Oven method
1. Heat oven to 400° F.
2. Using a fork, prick the eggplant all over.
3.Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast until very tender, 50 to 60 minutes.
4. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, halve it lengthwise and scrape out the flesh, discarding the skin. Finely chop the flesh and transfer it to a large bowl.

Add to the cooked eggplant
To the finely chopped cooked eggplant flesh, add the remaining ingredients. Mix everything together and serve on top of warm pita bread or on crackers.

No, it’s not very pretty, but it’s delicious.

How to choose eggplants

Choose eggplants that are firm, glossy, and smooth. Once they sit around and start getting soft, dull, and spotty, they don’t seem to cook as well.

The round pale purples ones (“Beatrice” variety), the small stripey ones (“graffiti” variety),  the long slender Japanese ones and the hard to find tiny “Fairy Tale” variety are my favorites to cook and eat. But any and all are good, as long as they’re fresh!

– Bethany Fleishman

Photos: by Molly Drummond and Vital Communities staff

polenta pie credit Julia A Reed (7)

Bethany’s Luncheonette: Polenta Pie

I used to make cooked lunches twice a week for a handful of friends and neighbors. I called it Bethany’s Luncheonette. I would e-mail a menu out Sunday night for Tuesday and Wednesday. Everyone who ordered a lunch got it school-lunch-style in a reusable and returnable container labeled with their name in Sharpie on masking tape. It was fun – my friends loved it, and that made me very happy. Someday I will start it again.

Polenta pie was one of my favorites from Luncheonette. Since wheat doesn’t agree with me, this is my version of pizza. It’s super delicious hot or cold.

The recipe is a slight adaptation from the Moosewood Cookbook (a classic 1970’s vegetarian cookbook from a restaurant collective in Ithaca, New York). Thank you, Moosewood and Molly Katzen! Still such good recipes.

polenta pie credit Julia A Reed (4)This isn’t the fastest recipe out there, so if you’re pressed for time, don’t bake the polenta – instead just cook it the first time and serve it in a bowl with the veggies and cheese on top (see photo to left). But better yet, wait until you have time to do the whole thing through. You’ll be glad you did.

Please experiment with different toppings. Master the polenta crust, and then you have a base for any seasonal veggie toppings. See end of post for suggestions on variations.

I haven’t tried it, but I bet you could make a few polenta crusts ahead of time and freeze them for quick pizzas later on. Don’t forget that you’ll need a decent sized pot and a sturdy whisk to make a big batch of polenta.

Polenta Pie
Adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook

Crust:
1 ½ cups coarse cornmeal (there are several Vermont and New Hampshire farms that sell cornmeal in local grocery stores)
1 t salt (or more to taste)
1 ½ cups cold water
2 cups boiling water (in a saucepan)
A little olive oil
One clove of crushed garlic (OPTIONAL)
A couple spoonfuls of grated Parmesan (OPTIONAL)

Topping:
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
½ a thinly sliced bell pepper (or use the whole one if you want)
10 mushrooms, sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
4 to 5 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ t dried oregano and/or thyme OR a handful of chopped fresh herbs
A few leaves chopped basil OR a spoonful of basil pesto (OPTIONAL)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound mozzarella, grated (feta, cheddar, goat cheese, etc. are good too.)
2 small (or 1 medium-sized) ripe tomato, sliced (OR, a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce if you have that on hand instead)polenta pie credit Julia A Reed

Directions:

  1. Combine cornmeal, salt, and cold water in a small bowl.
  2. Have the boiling water on the stove in a saucepan, and add the cornmeal mixture, whisking.
  3. Cook 15-20 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently. It will get very thick. Taste it for salt.
  4. Add garlic or Parmesan now, if using.
  5. Remove from heat, and let cool until handleable.polenta pie credit Julia A Reed (8)
  6. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Oil a 10-inch pie pan or a pre-heated skillet.
  7. Add the polenta, and use a rubber spatula and/or wet hands to form it into a smooth, thick crust over the bottom and sides of the pan.
  8. Spread the surface with olive oil, and bake uncovered for 45 minutes.
  9. While the crust bakes, heat 1 T olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add the onion, and sauté for 5 to 8 minutes, or until it begins to soften.
  10. Season with salt.
  11. Add the bell pepper, mushrooms and zucchini, and sauté until everything is tender, but not too soft. (Use your own judgment. There are no rules!)
  12. Add the garlic, herbs, and some black pepper, and sauté just a few minutes more. Add more salt if needed.
  13. Turn the oven to broil.
  14. Sprinkle half the cheese onto the bottom of the baked crust (okay if the crust is still hot), and add the tomato slices or tomato sauce.
  15. Spread the sautéed vegetables over the tomatoes, add the basil or pesto if using, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
  16. Broil until brown (about 5 minutes) and serve hot.

This is also tasty cold the next day, and it reheats well.

Your farmers market shopping list:
Coarse cornmeal
Garlic
A small onion
A bell pepper
2 small tomatoes
Mushrooms
A small zucchini or summer squash
Cheese
Fresh herbs

Some variations:
Sauteed or grilled onion & pepper plus Italian sausage
Chopped cooked spinach, sauteed or grilled onion, and Feta cheese
Or try any of these other toppings: grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper, cooked sliced asparagus, steamed or grilled broccoli or cauliflower, cooked or roasted kale, arugula, any fresh herbs lying around, sautéed leeks, etc.

Keep in mind that the broiling time is only to melt the cheese, so use precooked vegetables rather than raw ones. Using raw veggies will result in lukewarm crunchy veggies under melted cheese – gross!

Dedication: Written July 24, 2016, on the 100th anniversary of my grandmother’s birth. Happy birthday, Mimi! She was and will always be the best provider of food I know. I dedicate my food blogs to her and her mother, Olga.

– Bethany Fleishman

Photo credit: Julia A. Reed

kale caesar credit Julia A Reed (9)

Kale, Caesar!

kale caesar credit Julia A Reed (9)My favorite way to eat kale is not new or trendy – I like it cooked tender and until it’s ​no longer bright green. But on a hot day or for company or a potluck, kale Caesar is refreshing and a little fancy.

Kale salad is trendy right now, and kale Caesar, specifically, is very Vermont chic.

Raw kale is a nice alternative or addition to lettuce in a salad – especially if you already have kale and don’t want to buy lettuce or salad greens. Plus, making croutons for Caesar salad is a good way to use up stale bread.

For eating raw in salads, choose fresh kale with smaller leaves. The flavor tends to get stronger as the leaves mature on the plant or in your fridge. Have a lot of older kale sitting around? Rip off a piece and see what it tastes like. A braise with plenty of salt, garlic, bacon fat,​ and a splash of leftover wine might be a better choice than a salad.

To prepare kale for any salad, pull the stems off and break leaves into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle them with a little salt and oil and squeeze them with your fists until the leaves get wilted and soft. People call this “massaging” the kale but I think that sounds weird. Add dressing and other ingredients and serve!

Here, we’re going to make Caesar salad with dressing and croutons from scratch. If you prefer, you can always use store bought croutons and/or Caesar dressing, but don’t be put off by the fairly straightforward  process of making your own. You’ll build kitchen skills and have a better end product.

–Bethany Fleishman, Vital Communities’ Transportation Program Assistant and former pastry chef, is contributing recipes this summer for our Valley Food & Farm program.

Photo credits: Julia A. Reed

Kale Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons
Recipes adapted from Tyler Florence and from Natasha’s Kitchen

Ingredients

1-2 bunches green or lacinato/dinosaur kale

freshly grated Parmesan, or any hard sharp cheese from a local farm

Croutons
2 cups of stale bread, cubed or torn into chunks, crusts left on

2 T unsalted butter

2 T extra virgin olive oil

2 medium garlic cloves, smashed or minced

1 T fresh thyme, finely chopped, or 1 t dried thyme

1/4 t salt

1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

Dressing
4 anchovy fillets or 2 t anchovy pasteblueberry fool credit Julia A Reed (5)

1 clove garlic, smashed or minced

1 lemon, very well squeezed

1 yolk from a fresh local egg (save the white in the freezer to add to scrambled eggs or to make cakes or meringues)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (or any hard sharp cheese from a local farm)

freshly ground black pepper

salt

Make the croutons first:butter herbs cooking credit Julia A Reed
1. In a small saucepan, heat the butter, olive oil, garlic cloves, thyme, and pepper over medium heat until butter is melted and bubbly. Set aside and let the flavors infuse into the oil. (Wash the kale and pat dry while you wait.)
2. Drizzle the butter/olive oil mixture evenly ocroutons kale caesar credit Julia A Reed (1)ver the bread cubes and toss until they have an even coating of oil.
3. Spread the croutons in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 375˚F for 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown and crunchy. Set aside to let cool.

Make the dressing next:
Blend the anchovies, garlic, egg yolk, and lemon juice for 30 seconds until the mixture is smooth (use an immersion blender in a tall mug or wide-mouth canning jar). With the blender running, pour the olive oil in slowly for the dressing to emulsify it. Stir in the Parmesan and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Season, to taste, with salt and set aside. Refrigerate the dressing if you will not be using it right away.blueberry fool credit Julia A Reed (13)

Assemble the salad:
Pull off the kale stems and break leaves into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle a little salt and olive oil/salad oil over the leaves and squeeze them with your fists until the kale gets
somewhat wilted and soft. Add enough dressing to coat the salad to your liking. Add the croutons and some extra Parmesan and toss the salad well.kale caesar credit Julia A Reed (7)

Eat it now or eat it tomorrow. The kale holds up well with dressing and a night in the fridge, but leave off the croutons until serving.

Warm Kale and Cheese Dip

Kale

Warm Kale and Cheese Dip

courtesy of My Recipes.com

Ingredients

5 bacon slices, chopped
1 pound fresh kale, stemmed and finely chopped (about 1 bunch)
1/2 medium-size sweet onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 (8-oz.) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (4 1/2 oz.) shredded Asiago cheese
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (4 1/2 oz.) shredded fontina or Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Assorted crackers and crudités

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring often, 6 to 7 minutes or until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 Tbsp. drippings in Dutch oven. Sauté kale, onion, and garlic in hot drippings 7 to 8 minutes or until onion is tender. Add wine, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until particles loosen from bottom of Dutch oven.

2. Stir together cream cheese and mayonnaise in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in Asiago cheese, next 4 ingredients, and kale mixture. Spoon into a lightly greased 1- to 1 1/2-qt. baking dish.

3. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until center is hot and cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes; top with bacon. Serve with crackers and crudités.

Photo Julia A Reed

Quick Kimchi

Photo Julia A Reed

Photo Julia A Reed.

Cabbage, cabbage, everywhere – this is the time of year for the versatile Brassica. Napa cabbage (also called celery cabbage and Chinese cabbage) grows well in our region and is often found in fall CSA shares, at farmers’ markets, and farmstands so here is an easy recipe for this crunchy vegetable.

napa cabbage

Napa is a leafy vegetable that is low in calories, but high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C & K, and folic acid  – that’s a lot of bang for the buck! And, it happens to be versatile and delicious.

Kimchi is a traditional Korean fermented vegetable condiment. This unfermented take on kimchi is quick, easy, delicious and a great way to enjoy the bounty of napa cabbage available this time of year. I found this recipe on sheknows.com and it takes just a few minutes to prepare and can last in the refrigerator for several weeks.

kimchi ingredients

The heat comes from the sambal oelek which is a Southeast Asian hot chili pepper sauce that you can find in many stores in the International aisle. You can adjust the amount of chili paste you add to the kimchi to make it more to less spicy.

kimchi chopped napa

Quick Kimchi
adapted from she knows.com

1 head napa cabbage, rough chopped
8-12 cloves garlic, sliced
3 Tbsp sambal oelek chili paste
1/2 cup rice vinegar
salt to taste

mixing ingredients

Directions

Rough chop cabbage and mix with vinegar, chili paste, salt, and sliced garlic. Store in glass jar and refrigerate overnight.

ready for fridge

Photo Julia A Reed

Photo Julia A Reed

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Zucchini Chard Cakes

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve shared this zucchini chard cake recipe with folks this summer. I was sure that as soon as I mentioned zucchini I would be greeted with a sigh and eyeroll.

“No more zucchini!” they’d say. “We’ve had enough!”

 

Because, let’s be honest, each summer we all have more than enough of the ubiquitous green squash. Even if we don’t, we probably know someone looking to give away a few dozen or so. But to my surprise, as I traveled around making zucchini cake after zucchini cake, I didn’t get one complaint. In fact, people were enthusiastic to find another way to put it to use.

I’m always happy to be proven wrong. Really. That’s why this became my go to dish (along with a complementary tomato basil chutney) for my cooking demos and local food tastings. Apparently we haven’t reached peak zucchini. Word is still out on kale, though.

rainbow swiss chard keene fm  by SC, 2008

 

These cakes use the classic technique of vegetable hiding. Zucchini doesn’t have a strong flavor all on its own and when you mix it into what is more or less a standard pancake recipe, you hardly can tell it’s there at all. So much so, that you can also get away with chopping up even more healthy green stuff – chard and parsley – and mixing it in as well. Simply avoid those fruitless debates with the picky eaters in your life (note: none of mine happen to be kids) and just go ahead and serve these anyway. Before they can tell you how much they don’t like these vegetables, they’ll be happily and unknowingly eating them anyway. Call me cruel, but this is one of my great pleasures in life.

Zucchini Chard Cakes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: about 10 – 4 inch pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb zucchini
  • 1/2 onion
  • small bunch of Swiss chard leaves
  • small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • splash of milk
  • 2 Tbsp oil + some for the pan

 

We’re going to need to shred the zucchini. You can do this quite easily with a box grater, or if you’re intending to shred a large quantity, I’d opt for the food processor like I did here. If not using all of the zucchini at once, it does freeze nicely.

Next, grate the onion. I prefer to grate the onion instead of chop it, as it will blend better into the pancakes.

 

Remove the stems from the chard and save for another purpose. Chopped and tossed into a stir fry, perhaps? Then chop the leaves.

Combine the egg, salt, and flour in a bowl. Add in the zucchini, chard, onion, garlic and parsley and stir to form a thick batter. Add just a splash of milk and the oil to form a more workable, pourable batter.

 

Heat your skillet and lightly coat it with oil when hot. Preheat the oven to 200F. Pour 1/4 cup spoonfuls of batter onto the hot skillet and cook 2-3 minutes per side, until browned. Flip and cook another 2 minutes. Transfer the cakes to the oven to keep warm while you cook the remainder of the pancakes.

Serve as a side, topped with tomato chutney, or as a light summer dinner with a side of greens.

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Ramp and Potato Soup

Memorial Day weekend is supposed to be the kick-off of summer. Sun. Gardening. Grilling. Relaxing at the lake.

Yet the weather around here looks cool and rainy. So I might trade in my plans to break out the grill and instead, huddle over a big pot of warm soup – because I will not be turning my heat back on, no matter how cold it might get. It’s almost June!

Depressing, yes. On the other hand, I’m a little excited to make a pot of ramp and potato soup. It’s a variation on leek and potato, but to me, it just has a fresher taste. Despite the weather, it kind of really invokes spring. Though at this point – shouldn’t we be thinking of summer

Hilary Adams and I made a pot of this soup at the Asa Bloomer building in downtown Rutland last week, as the second culinary event in the Real Rutland series. We actually threw in a number of different alliums (onion and garlic family members) in the pot, including garlic greens, yellow onions, shallots, and chives. Then we whipped up a garlic green pesto. Thanks to all who stopped by to talk with us and try these delicious local foods.

Ramp and Potato Soup

Many recipes will call for milk and/or cream as the liquid in a leek and potato soup. This doesn’t really work when you have dairy issues, like me. Of course, you could try a non-dairy milk. Coconut is often a route I take with soup. But I think the potatoes, and addition of a little yogurt, make this creamy enough without the extra fat. But use whichever you prefer. 

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups sliced and washed ramps, or any combination of your favorite alliums
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups potatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 large, sweet onion, chopped
  • fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 6 cups water or broth
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • A small bunch of chives, chopped

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and let sweat, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic, ramps or other alliums, some salt and let cook for another 8-10 minutes. Pour in your liquid of choice, the potatoes, thyme, and a little more salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

With an immersion blender, puree the soup until almost smooth. Alternatively, very carefully transfer slightly cooled soup in batches a blender. Stir in the yogurt. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve in bowls, topped with the chives and some crusty bread on the side.

ratatouille

End of Summer Ratatouille

Whenever I find myself loaded with tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant and summer squash this is what I make. Ratatouille (rat-a-too-ee) is an old classic French vegetable stew that was made popular again a few years back by the Pixar movie of the same name. If you haven’t seen the film, I suggest you do – perhaps tomorrow over a day old dish of this stew.

The theme of the film is that anyone can cook and make delicious food with high quality, yet simple ingredients. That’s awfully similar to the premise of Everyday Chef, isn’t it? Also, the longer the vegetables meld together and break down, the better this dish gets – so I wasn’t joking on trying it the next day. It’s great cold and I often eat it simply on a piece of toasted bread.

I know I’m bringing this to you a bit late in the season and for that I apologize. During the past few weeks much of my time was focused on our Twilight in the Meadow fundraiser, which helps raise money to continue our programs like Everyday Chef. But I saw a ton of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant thriving at the market this past weekend, so it is still very much possible to make. You might be out of luck on the summer squash at this point, but just increase the amount of the other ingredients and use varying colors, or throw in a few others, such as mushrooms or even potato.

I’ve seen ratatouille made many ways. But my favorite is by roasting. I think it’s also the least fussiest method.

Gather your veggies. Peel and slice as needed. I like to do a rough chop and keep everything similar in size. I don’t bother with a fancy presentation. Often you’ll see ratatouille plated with everything sliced paper thin in circles, all the same in size, and arranged perfectly together. But unless you’re trying to impress or are running a restaurant, I don’t think you don’t need to bother. This will still look, and more importantly, taste, good.

 Arrange everything but the tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with of oil, thyme leaves and a few pinches of salt. Roast at 425 for 30-45 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook down the tomatoes on top of the stove in a little heated oil, garlic and red pepper flakes over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally and throw in some salt to taste. When they’re close to done and at a sauce-like consistency, add in a few splashes of red wine vinegar and the basil.

When the veggies are ready – they should look something like this, maybe a little less charred – toss them together with the tomatoes.

You could eat this all by itself topped with some grated Parmesan. But I love to serve it over polenta. Remember, it gets better the next day and the day after that. Bon Apetit.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 3 medium onions
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 3 zucchini or summer squash
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • red wine vinegar

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425.
  2. Peel veggies as needed (especially if your eggplant is not super fresh) and roughly chop into pieces about the same size.
  3. Place all the veggies but the tomatoes on a baking sheet with 1/2 of the garlic, the thyme leaves, a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt.
  4. In a medium sized pot heat a couple tablespoons of oil and then add in the remaining garlic and red pepper flakes. Let cook for a minute, then add in the tomatoes and season with salt.
  5. Allow to cook down over low-medium heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally and being careful not to let the tomatoes splatter.
  6. When nearly done, add in the red wine vinegar and basil.
  7. When the veggies are done roasting, toss with the tomatoes and serve. Top with Parmesan if you’d like. Enjoy by itself or over polenta.
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