Grilled Napa Cabbage

Napa cabbage, also known as Chinese cabbage, is a popular vegetable found in CSA shares and at farmers’ markets all around the Upper Valley. Here is an easy and surprisingly delicious way to enjoy this plentiful local food.

napa cabbage

Grilled Napa Cabbage

adapted from Martha Stewart.com

  • 3 tablespoons hot mustard
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated garlic
  • 1 medium head napa cabbage
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves (OPTIONAL)
  1. Heat grill to high. Mix together mustard, agave nectar, 1 teaspoon oil, the garlic, salt, and pepper and put aside.

  2. Cut cabbage lengthwise into quarters, leaving core intact. Brush cabbage on all sides with 2 teaspoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

  3. Grill cabbage, flat side down, 3 minutes. Flip, and continue to grill until charred. Remove from grill.

  4. Brush cabbage on all sides with mustard glaze. Arrange cabbage on a platter, sprinkle with basil, and serve.

grilled-chinese-napa-cabbage3-credit-julia-a-reed

Photo credit Julia A Reed

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

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

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

July Strawberry Salad

Each year I look forward to strawberry season with eager anticipation. Upper Valley strawberries are so juicy and sweet – there is nothing like them! Picking these little red treasures at a U-pick farm means a fun family activity and a provides the perfect opportunity to visit a beautiful farm. Several Upper Valley farms are growing everbearing strawberries which means we get to enjoy fresh strawberries June-September!

Strawberries are so versatile, that they often show up in fruit salad or smoothies for breakfast, pies or cakes for dessert, straight out of the colander for snacking, and as an interesting addition the salads. A great way to combine three things that are in abundance in early July – basil, cucumbers, and strawberries – is this refreshing salad.

Although, this salad isn’t something you want to make ahead of time or keep for leftovers, it is a quick and easy side salad that marries the freshest things of the season.

Strawberry, Cucumber, and Basil Salad

Adapted from Cooking Light

strawberry, cuke, basil

Combine in a serving bowl and mix gently:

 

1 pint hulled strawberries, chilled and quartered

1 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

1 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

 

Toss in a small bowl:

 

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

pinch of salt and pepper

 

Combine strawberry and cucumber mixtures and toss. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Photo credit Julia A Reed

Sufferin’ Succotash

My childhood memories of succotash are not good. I distinctly remember dumping my bowl of succotash in the bushes during an evening picnic when I was around six years old because the mushy tasteless succotash (likely canned) was standing between me and dessert. I discreetly dumped it in the bushes when no one was looking and innocently asked for dessert.

The dish that I couldn’t stomach way back when is a far cry from the hip and delicious take on succotash I served for dinner tonight. Succotash is Narragansett (an extinct Algonquian language) for “broken corn kernels” and is traditionally made with corn and lima beans. These days, creative chefs  have expanded the definition and have made a vegetable dish that is easy and versatile. Corn is still the star, but you can be really inventive by cooking corn with whatever vegetables you have in the freezer, in the refrigerator (great use of left over vegetable), or in the garden (we have a few more month for this to be an option). Tonight I pulled some garden corn and peas from the freezer when I got home from work, added some onions and herbs, and had an easy side dish in less than 20 minutes.

There is nothing like a sweet summer succotash made with corn just off the cob with it’s sweet sugar milk (this is a great use of leftover corn on the cob!) and an assortment of fresh veggies (zucchini, summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, etc.). This is an easy, healthy, and light side. I long for the days of walking out to the garden and picking dinner, but on this snowy January night cooking up some frozen and stored veggies made for a taste of summer on this cold evening.

frozen ingredients

Sufferin’ Succotash
Guidelines only, go wild and be creative

Corn off the cob (fresh or freshly frozen)
Sweet peas, edamame, lima beans, fava beans (fresh or freshly frozen)
Onion/leeks/scallions, chopped
Other veggies: zucchini/summer squash/broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, yams, tomatoes…anything you can think of
Butter, (3 Tbsp+/-) because everything is better with butter
Thyme & sage, fresh or dried
Salt & pepper to taste.

Defrost any frozen veggies, steam/boil any fresh veggies. Melt the butter in a pan, cook onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add vegetables and herbs and cook for 5-10 minutes and serve.

cooking onions

winter succotash

Below is a photo of a summer succotash I made last summer with fresh from the garden corn (off the cob), shell peas, sweet onion, and fresh herbs… yum!

Photo credit Julia A Reed

Photo credit Julia A Reed

Curried Squash Apple Soup

This is the start of soup season at my house. Soups are comforting and can be super easy, like this amazingly delicious 3 ingredient soup (there are 3 main ingredients, but there are some spices and cider that you’ll need, too).

The original recipe is from Ina Garten, but I’ve made a few adjustments to reduce the spice level. A trick I use to make this a 15 minute soup is to pre-cook the squash. When I have too many squash rolling around the kitchen counter (CSA share back log, irresistible sale at the farm stand, garden abundance, etc.), I cook all the squash at once and then freeze what I don’t need. That way I can just pull the pre-cooked squash from the freezer and add it right into the soup.

(Easy tip for cooking winter squash and pumpkins: Cut whole squash in half, scrape out the seeds and place cut side down on a baking sheet (lined with foil if you want to make clean up really easy). Add a little water to the pan and cook in pre-heated 350 degree oven until tender. Scoop flesh from the skin and freeze in pre-portioned amounts.)

curried squash apple soup


Curried Squash and Apple Soup
courtesy of Ina Garten, The Food Network

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp each butter & olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large butternut squash, peeled, cleaned, and cubed
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 -1 tsp curry powder (adds heat & flavor)
1 1/2 tsp Garam masala
1 tsp salt
1 cup apple cider, juice, or water

(Garam masala is a traditional Indian blend of spices including clove, cinnamon, pepper, cumin, and cardamon.  You can find it in most grocery stores or co-ops.)

Squash apples
Directions:
Heat butter, olive oil, onion, and curry powder in a soup pot on low heat for 10-15 minutes, until tender, stirring occasionally.

Add squash, apple, salt, Garam masala, cider or water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes or until very tender.

Remove from heat. Puree with blender, food processor, or immersion blender. Return to heat and thin with cider to desired thickness. Serve and enjoy!

 

Kale, Potato & Fennel Hash

Vermont Harvest of the Month (HOM) for November is kale! By now most people know how nutritious the ubiquitous cold season green is and how everybody should eat more of it. There are lots of great recipes for including kale in your everyday cooking – including a bunch of kid-friendly recipes HOM developed for Farm-to-School programs.

HOM Nov Kale

I love this recipe (that I found at RealSimple.com) for several reasons:

  • easy – with only 3 ingredient and one pan it doesn’t get any simpler.
  • great fall and early winter recipe I can make with all locally grown food!
  • can be a main dish for a lighter meal or a satisfying side dish.
  • this is really good!

 

Potato, Kale, and Fennel Hash
courtesy of Real Simple.com

Ingredients

  1. 1 medium bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves torn into bite-size pieces (about 10 cups)
  2. 3/4 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  3. large bulb fennel, chopped
  4. tablespoons canola oil
  5. kosher salt and black pepper

FennelRed potatoes

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes and fennel, season with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, and cook, tossing occasionally, until golden and tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Add the kale and cook, tossing occasionally, until wilted, 8 to 10 minutes more. Serve with the hot sauce (optional).

Kale Potato Fennel Hash2 credit Julia A Reed

 

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