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

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

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

Across the Grain: Grilled Flat Iron Steak

As an eater and a former restaurant worker, I know there’s often some tension around balancing the price and ease of mass-produced meat with the benefits of local meat to farmers, the environment, and society’s health. Put more bluntly, locally raised meat often comes in cuts we don’t know how to cook and is usually more expensive than meat from the supermarket.

Here are some suggestions—and a recipe—to make it work when you buy the local stuff:

  • Spend the same amount on meat from the local farmer as you do at the supermarket but stretch the smaller quantity by making stew, stir-fry, or more veggie side dishes. We know we’re supposed to be eating less meat and more veggies anyway, right? More veggies + meat that is actually good for you = happy stomachs.
  • Or get a cheaper cut and learn how to cook it to optimize flavor and tenderness. Since farmers do raise entire animals, and a whole beef is more than just 750 pounds of rib-eye, your local farmers’ market vendors sell a variety of cuts. It’s not hard to learn how to cook these other cuts so that they’re delicious and amazing! See below.

Grilled Flat Iron Steak

Ingredients:

Flat iron steak or similar (like skirt steak)
Olive oil
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper
Herbs of your choice

Directions:

  1. Remove any clear silvery membrane that may remain on the steak. This so-called “silverskin” is really tough to chew.
  2. Marinate steak with olive oil and a little Worcestershire sauce, plus salt, pepper, and any herbs of your choice, for 20 minutes or more.
  3. Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking it.
  4. Grill meat at medium high heat until grill marks show on the surface. The browning indicates the meat’s sugars and proteins are raw steak with tongs credit Julia A Reedcaramelizing to offer a wonderful flavor.
  5. Turn steak, repeat browning, and insert a meat thermometer.
  6. Turn the heat down or move the meat off to the side and finish cooking to 135º F for medium-rare.
  7. Let steak rest for 5-10 minutes. This allows the juices to be reabsorbed, resulting in more juicy steak.
  8. Cut meat ACROSS THE GRAIN. See details below.

Cutting is one of the most important things to get right when cooking tougher cuts like flat iron. Cut across the grain to optimize tenderness.

Let me explain. If you look at a flat iron steak, you can see the thin strips of muscle all going more or less in one direction. In the photo to the right, the grain is going up and down. If you cut the steaks into strips FOLLOWING that grain, you’ll end up with those long (and tough) muscle fibers intact because your knife is just separating them from each other. But if you cut ACROSS that grain, you’re slicing each muscle fiber into short pieces, leaving your teeth with less to do. See the finished slices in the opening photo. Note that if you choose a skirt steak instead of a flat iron, the grain goes from side to side, so you should cut the steak the long way.

Some cuts have really obvious grain patterns. Others—like short ribs—can be more subtle and may even change direction in a single piece of meat. What to do? Slice a small corner and take a look – does your slice have stripes (bad) or little circles (good)? If you need to start again from another side, do that. If you’re cutting away and the grain changes direction part way through, just rotate the meat until you’re cutting in the right direction again. Be the boss of your steak.

– Bethany Fleishman

Photo credit: Julia A. Reed

One Pot Meal: Sausage, New Potato & Vegetable Hash

This is my favorite thing to eat in August when corn and green beans are ready, there is lots of summer squash, and new potatoes are just coming in. It’s colorful, full of bright flavors, and totally satisfying for breakfast, lunch, or supper. It’s good cold as leftovers. It practically makes itself, and unlike many of my recipes, this one contains neither garlic nor Parmesan.

Everything but the salt, pepper, and olive oil can be found at Upper Valley farmers’ markets and farm stands or maybe your CSA or backyard. Buy locally! Eat seasonally!

Sausage, New Potato & Vegetable Hash
Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients
4 pork sausages – ideally Italian or garlic
1 red pepper, sliced into strips  (green or pablano are fine too)
1 large red onion, cut into chunks (other onions or equivalent amount of leek or scallions are fine too)
1 pound new potatoes, skins on, sliced ⅛ to ¼ inch thick.
1-2 yellow summer squash or zucchini cut into slices or small chunks (yellow crookneck is my favorite, but hard to find unless you grow them yourself.)
Kernels from an ear or two of corn (use up day- or days-old ears that are drying up in your fridge)
Handful of green beans cut or snapped in half (kale or broccoli are fine in a pinch)
2 T olive oil or fat (lard or chicken fat works well if you have some sitting around)
Salt & pepper
Handful of fresh herbs, chopped (I like cilantro or parsley)sausage potato and late vegetable hash credit Julia A

Directions
1. In a large skillet (10” or so) brown sausages on medium-high heat.

2. When sausages are half cooked, add onions and peppers and some salt.sausage potato and late vegetable hash credit Julia A (4)

3. Let peppers and onions get nice a nd browned before stirring.

4. When sausages are just cooked, remove them and the onions and peppers and set aside. Pour ¼ cup water into the pan to “deglaze” it – that is, get all the tasty browned flavors and bits off the pan. Add this pan juice to the sausages.

5. Wipe out pan to remove any sausage bits left. Heat a couple tablespoons of oil on medium high and add thesausage potato and late vegetable hash credit Julia A (8) thinly sliced potatoes in a single layer. Salt well. Let them brown them well before turning.

6. Add corn kernels, and summer squash. Let veggies brown before turning.

7. Break apart sausage into chunks and add sausage, onions, peppers, and pan juice back into hash along with chopped green beans.

8. Cook until green beans are tender and sausage is heated again. Test a potato too to make sure it’s cooked through.

9. Garnish with fresh chopped herbs. Serve with hot sauce.

Let’s talk about skillets
This hash is ideally cooked in a large skillet so that the vegetables sit in a single layer to brown equally.

Don’t have a nonstick pan? You don’t need one if you add ingredients to a sizzling hot cast iron or steel pan. Then lower heat to medium and don’t turn the ingredients until they’re browned, when they’ll start to release on their own.

Keep an eye out at yard sales or thrift stores for old cast iron or steel skillets as more healthful, more beautiful, and longer lasting alternatives to nonstick pans. (They’re not cheap if you get them new.)

– Bethany Fleishman

Photo credit: Julia A. Reed

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

Simple & Stunning: Blueberry Fool

Fool – a deceptively delicious English dessert – is one of my favorites. It’s easy, so tasty, and can be made with Upper Valley ingredients. When served in clear serving dishes, it’s stunning enough for a party.

Here is the recipe-less version: swirl together equal parts whipped cream and slightly sweetened berry puree. You can cook the berries before pureeing or puree them raw. You can strain out the seeds or leave them in. You can sweeten the cream, add yogurt or mascarpone, or leave it plain. Try different berries or fruit.

If you want a recipe, here’s one for blueberry fool. All of the major ingredients can be found at farmers markets or farm stands here in the Upper Valley – right now!

Blueberry Fool
Adapted from English chef Nigel Slater
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients
2 cups (= 1 pint/1 pound) blueberries , retain a handful for a garnish
3 tablespoons sugar or maple syrup or to taste
¾ cup heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk yogurt (Greek or regular)
A squeeze of lemon, a pinch of salt, and a drop of vanilla extract (OPTIONAL)

Directions
1. In a small pan over low heat, simmer the berries and sugar or maple with a scant spoonful of water for about 10 minutes until they burst, and the juice begins to blueberry fool credit Julia A Reed (2)evaporate.

2. Either crush berries with a fork, pass them through a sieve, or puree them.

3. Let it cool so the puree doesn’t melt the whipped cream.

4. Once cool, adjust the sweetness and add a few drops of lemon juice, vanilla, and pinch of salt if it needs a boost of flavor.

5. Whip the cream into thick soft peaks.

6. Stir the yogurt until smooth.

7. Fold the yogurt into the whipped cream.

8. Then swirl the blueberry sauce into the cream mixture so it’s nice and marbled. Spoon into a clear serving bowl or into individual cups.

9. Ideally let it chill for an hour before serving.blueberry fool credit Julia A Reed (15)

10. Garnish with whole berries. I like mine topped with something crunchy too, like crushed amaretti cookies.

Other Fools

RASPBERRY: Red or black raspberry fool is amazing. Whether the berries are cooked or left raw, for optimal eating experience, push the puree through a sieve to remove the seeds.

Try a combination of blueberries and raspberries. Keep them separate for purple and red swirls, or combine them as one puree.

For both raspberry and blueberry fool, it’s nice to leave a handful of the berries whole, either for garnish or to mix in with the puree.

RHUBARB: Cook chopped rhubarb with sugar into a sauce, and either use as is, or puree. Try a combination of strawberry and rhubarb – yum! Use our strawberry-rhubarb sauce recipe.

GOOSEBERRY: There are the traditional berry used in England for making fools. Give it a try if you can find them. Here’s the BBC’s recipe and a useful translation from British English: caster sugar = granulated sugar, icing sugar = confectioners’ sugar, and double cream = whipping cream.

RED or BLACK CURRANT: These are best cooked rather than used raw, and they require more sugar than do blueberries or raspberries, because they’re sour and strong tasting. I like their weird piney taste, but some people hate it – to play it safe in a crowd, mix currants with other berries.

A note about currants and gooseberries: Do you wonder why you’re suddenly seeing gooseberries and black or red currants and why you never heard much about them before? They’re coming into vogue in the U.S. after a long ban was lifted on their cultivation due to a pest these berry cousins carry that allegedly threatens pine trees. Both have been long enjoyed in other parts of the world. Gooseberries are native to Europe, parts of Asia, and northern Africa. And currants are common in jellies and desserts in Northern Europe. My Danish great-grandmother – apparently a recurring character in my food blogs – passed down her recipe for rødgrød med fløde, which means “red berry porridge with cream” and is usually made with red currants.

– Bethany Fleishman

Photo credit: Julia A. Reed

Getting ready for Pot Roast

Take Stock

Stock – essentially a long-cooked infusion of bones, meat scraps, or vegetables – embodies several of my favorite qualities: thrifty, healthy, old-fashioned, and delicious.

Thrifty: Stock is made with leftovers and scraps. Most of us in America have gotten used to throwing away bones, onion ends, and carrot peelings, but these have an important second life.

Have picked-over roast chicken bones? Or slimy raw bones and skin after cutting up thighs for a stir-fry? Save them all in a plastic bag in the freezer. Peeling carrots or cutting up celery for your kids’ lunches? Save the scraps, and put them in another plastic bag in the freezer.

Make stock when you have time and enough scraps saved. Then freeze it until you need it. I freeze mine in old quart yogurt containers – it’s the right amount for a batch of soup.

Healthy: Stock is touted for its health benefits since the slow cooking of bones extracts nutrients from the connective tissue and bone marrow. When it’s cool, stock should be somewhat gelatinous.

Called “Jewish penicillin” by some, the comforting and healing properties of chicken soup – and indeed any soup made with bones – are recognized around the world. Once a barista in San Francisco recommended his native Iran’s home remedy for my torn knee meniscus: a stock from chicken feet (for maximum gelatin and connective tissue). I still make that from time to time, and I make regular chicken stock and other meat stock to heal colds and flu.

Vital Communities Feb2016 SMALL-62Old-fashioned: My Jewish grandmother made chicken soup full of matzo balls, giblets, and lots of yellow chicken fat on top. My Scandinavian/German grandmother made all sorts of amazing soup from chicken, pork, or beef bones. No matter where you’re from, you likely know older folks who make soup this way. Use the knowledge of the ancestors.

Delicious: Stock can be used for the base of a soup broth or for various sauces. It makes things rich and tasty. Use it if you can, and you’ll notice a subtle but real difference. Chicken soup made with long-cooked roasted bones and plenty of onion is perfect food.

The Recipes:

Meat stock

Use cooked or raw bones, or a combination. Skin is good too. Raw bones will make lighter stock with a more delicate flavor. Cooked – particularly roasted – bones will make a darker richer stock. There are all kinds of subtleties, rules, and small steps that you can take to make a restaurant-worthy stock, but we’re just at home and making normal people stock.

  1. By weight (roughly) combine one part bone, skin, and meat scraps and two parts cold water in a stockpot.
  2. Put the pot on very low heat, and cook uncovered for hours. Overnight is good if you feel comfortable doing that. Otherwise 4-6 hours is fine. Add more water anytime if needed.
  3. Ideally, the heat should be low enough that the stock only bubbles every couple of seconds. Higher heat is okay but your stock will be cloudy.
  4. If you’re adding vegetables, do so only during the last 20-30 minutes of cooking. They will lose their flavor if cooked longer than that.
  5. Skim off foam as it’s cooking.
  6. When it’s done, strain, cool, and skim off the fat (you can save this for cooking).Vital Communities Feb2016 SMALL-70

Vegetable stock

  1. By weight (roughly) combine one part vegetable scraps and two parts cold water.
  2. Simmer uncovered for 30-60 minutes, then strain, cool, and you’re done!

It’s important to choose your vegetables wisely. I said scraps, but don’t use rotting or moldy pieces. Use the bits that are just too tough to chew or are less pretty – like the tough outer layer of a peeled onion.

Vegetables to add to stock/broth for delicious flavor:
– onion and garlic scraps
– carrot ends and peels
– celery leaves and tough outer stalks

– fennel scraps, stems, and fronds
– corn cobs
– mushroom stems
– leek and scallion scraps
– tomatoes
– parsley stems

Things NOT to add unless you specifically want these attributes:
– beets – weird color and flavor
– cabbage, kale, broccoli, etc. – yuck, cabbage tea!
– strongly flavored herbs
– people say you can add onion skins to stock. I tried it for the photo here, and it gives a nice dark color, but I found it made the stock bitter.

By Bethany Fleishman

Photo credit: Julia A. Reed

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.

Spring Salad Made From Anything

I made this colorful crunchy salad on the fly on Memorial Day when the grocery stores were closed for the holiday and my parents, siblings, and out-of-town cousin were on their way over for dinner. I wanted a salad but only had asparagus, broccolini, scallions, and radishes from Cedar Circle Farm plus a few carrots in the fridge and herbs in the garden. And thus this salad put itself together with a little thoughtful slicing and a lemon dressing.

Thoughtful slicing? By that I mean thinking about the best way to slice each vegetable to make the salad both beautiful AND to make each bite make sense in your mouth.

For example, radishes are pungent and spicy, so I sliced some of them into paper-thin rounds and the rest into thin wedges – both shapes ensure a huge chunk of radish won’t ruin a bite. 

Similarly, raw carrots are great, but I don’t love them shredded and neither do I want huge carrot sticks. So I cut them in thinIMG_1127 irregular slices on the diagonal that are easy to pick up with a fork without too much crunching and drama. I prefer my broccoli cooked, so I did that before slicing it into long strips.

You get the idea. Give each vegetable a moment of thought to optimize its good qualities and make it pretty and easy to eat. Mix up colors and flavors, shapes and textures.

This salad can be made with any spring vegetable you like eating. Keep a vegetable raw if it tastes good raw (like scallions, kholrabi, peas, and radishes). Briefly steam, saute, or roast it if it’s better cooked (like broccoli, fiddleheads, or bok choy) and then cool before adding. Don’t forget the fresh herbs! I mixed dill, cilantro, basil, and marjoram, all from my backyard. In my opinion, any combination of fresh herbs is good in a salad.

(I used a lemon dressing, but you can use any dressing you have and like. Optional additions are grated, crumbled, or shaved cheese of your choosing, a cooked grain or pasta, beans, or pieces of chicken.)

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

Here’s my recipe; adapt as needed:

Spring Salad Made From Anything

Ingredients

one bunch asparagus – kept raw and shaved into ribbons with a peeler (or if you prefer it cooked, steam, cool, and slice)

4-6 radishes, some thinly sliced into rounds, the rest sliced into thin wedges (you can keep the root and a little of the green intact)

3-5 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thinly on the diagonal (extra pretty that way)

2-4 carrots, sliced into thin and irregular spears on the diagonal

2-3 stalks broccolini or one head of broccoli, briefly steamed, cooled, then sliced into long thin pieces

a handful of fresh herbs – basil, cilantro, parsley, marjoram, dill, chives, etc.

salt

Mix everything together in a salad bowl with a little salt (these vegetable chunks will soak up more salt than a plain salad of greens, so don’t be shy with the salt).IMG_1129

Make a lemon vinaigrette with:

half a lemon, juice & grated rind 

one clove garlic, sliced, mashed, or grated

salt & pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

Whisk this all together until smooth and creamy. Toss with the salad and serve immediately.

*Also on the family Memorial day supper menu:
– delicious juicy hamburgers with beef from Back Beyond Farm in Chelsea, Vermont, covered in fried onions and spicy sauerkraut.
– A grain salad my mom made
– Vermont ice cream with chocolate sauce.

**Thank you to my brother Ben for the photos.

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