Holiday Appetizers: Squash, Kale, and Onion Dips

The entertaining season is upon us and here are 3 dips you can bring to your company pot luck or your neighborhood gathering that use foods you can find at farmers’ markets in winter. Another tasty appetizer to share is Quick Kimchi using local cabbage. Celebrate the season with local food!

 

Squash Dip

Savory Butternut Squash Dip

by Alexandra Kazimir, RAFFL

Often prepared mashed with maple syrup or brown sugar, winter squash is delectable. I love transforming this sweet, nutty squash into a savory dip, that also boasts of the versatility of butternut.  By utilizing savory spices, such as a curry, and the subtle sweet earthiness of nutmeg, the natural sweetness of the butternut is intensified. This dip makes a lovely spread for sandwiches, pasta sauce alternative, or a simple appetizer with crackers or toasted baguette (top with chopped walnuts or toasted pumpkin seeds to dress it up for the holidays).

Ingredients:

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 c roasted butternut squash
  • 1/2 c soft, tangy cheese (quark, goat cheese, yogurt)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder (add more for a punchier dip)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 2-4 Tbsp water to thin

Cooked squash

Directions:

  • Cut, peel, and de-seed squash. Chop into 1-2″ cubes.
  • Drizzle squash with olive oil. Roast for 35 minutes at 400-425 degrees F on a lined baking sheet.
  • Add cooled squash, cheese, oil, nutmeg, and curry powder to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice or vinegar. Add water to thin mixture until desired consistency is reached.

Transfer to a bowl and serve with a drizzle of olive oil. This dip is delicious served simply with crackers; use it as a sandwich spread, or even as a pasta sauce!

The flavors continue to develop and intensify as the dip sits, so it will be even tastier the next day. If possible, make it ahead of time, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator (for up to a week).

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.

 Root 5 onions

Caramelized Onion Dip

courtesy of Food and Wine

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 pound cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 25 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water and cook, stirring, until the water has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Let the onions cool slightly, about 15 minutes.
  2. Transfer the onions to a cutting board and coarsely chop. In a large bowl, mix the sour cream with the cream cheese, parsley, onion powder and Worcestershire sauce until smooth. Stir in the onions and season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature with chips, crackers, or veggies.

The onion dip can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Savory Butternut Squash Dip

Squash Dip

Savory Butternut Squash Dip

by Alexandra Kazimir, RAFFL

Often prepared mashed with maple syrup or brown sugar, winter squash is delectable. I love transforming this sweet, nutty squash into a savory dip, that also boasts of the versatility of butternut.  By utilizing savory spices, such as a curry, and the subtle sweet earthiness of nutmeg, the natural sweetness of the butternut is intensified. This dip makes a lovely spread for sandwiches, pasta sauce alternative, or a simple appetizer with crackers or toasted baguette (top with chopped walnuts or toasted pumpkin seeds to dress it up for the holidays).

Ingredients:

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 c roasted butternut squash
  • 1/2 c soft, tangy cheese (quark, goat cheese, yogurt)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder (add more for a punchier dip)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 2-4 Tbsp water to thin

Cooked squash

Directions:

  • Cut, peel, and de-seed squash. Chop into 1-2″ cubes.
  • Drizzle squash with olive oil. Roast for 35 minutes at 400-425 degrees F on a lined baking sheet.
  • Add cooled squash, cheese, oil, nutmeg, and curry powder to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice or vinegar. Add water to thin mixture until desired consistency is reached.

Transfer to a bowl and serve with a drizzle of olive oil. This dip is delicious served simply with crackers; use it as a sandwich spread, or even as a pasta sauce!

The flavors continue to develop and intensify as the dip sits, so it will be even tastier the next day. If possible, make it ahead of time, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator (for up to a week).

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!

 

Holidays = Local + Healthy

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Well, at least it’s easy when it comes to getting local food and incorporating that into a healthy diet.

Now it is almost winter and the once abundant local offerings of dewy lettuces, ripe berries and fragrant tomatoes at the farmers’ markets have dwindled to practically nothing after the first frost. Add to that the challenge that the holidays can bring when you are trying to eat clean, healthy and whole foods and things begin to look dim indeed.

But never fear, we have strategies. And ideas. And a recipe. Okay, we have two recipes. Because it isn’t Everyday Chef without a recipe (or two)!

Chard

Eat Your Greens

Cabbages, collards, chard, kale and mustards are just a few local greens easy to find this time of year. Incredibly healthy, these greens are frost-hardy and often get a touch sweeter as the cold sets in. Although a bit toothsome for a raw salad, kale dressed with a favorite vinaigrette and allowed to mellow out in a bowl for an hour will be delicious and tender with crunchy, toasted seeds, thinly sliced red onion and chopped apples. Throw in some fresh goat cheese, feta or cheddar and you have a satisfying and beautiful side dish that is fit for the holiday table.

Another trick to bring out the amazingness of these cold loving greens, is to cook them. Cabbage cut in wedges, lightly browned in a tablespoon of olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and then braised in liquid (stock, cider, etc), turns out a melt-in-your-mouth sweet dish that pairs beautifully with roasted meats and vegetables. Try caraway or fennel seeds for an added dimension of flavor. Collards are underappreciated, but when cooked until tender and dressed with onions, salt and pepper, they yield a buttery, tender mouthful that begs for slow cooked beans, a bit of bacon and a cold glass of cider – perfect for welcoming the New Year.

Parsnip

Get Back to Your Roots

By the time the colors on our trees are but a memory and stick season shoulders its way in before the snow, I am ready the quintessential group of winter vegetables in Vermont, root veggies. Root vegetables can be found from your local farmer throughout the winter and well into spring. They store beautifully and when all the fresh eating veggies are long gone under the drifts of snow, we can dig out beets, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, rutabaga, turnips and onions. At Thanksgiving, I like to offer a warm bowl of whipped turnips with sage, a less calorie laden alternative to our favorite mashed potatoes. A regular favorite in our house during the cold months is to chop a variety of root vegetables, toss with sliced onions, olive oil, salt and pepper and then roast on a sheet pan in an oven at 375F until the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with a bit of fresh parsley and you have a delicious and healthy side dish for roasted meats or to use leftover in salad or soups.

Color Me Squash…Winter Squash That Is

With their gorgeous colors and shapes, thick skins that equate to long storage and nutrient rich flesh, winter squashes are the stars of winter eating. Butternut, pumpkin, acorn, delicata, kabocha, and hubbard to name but a few, can be turned into mashed mounds of orange deliciousness, thick and creamy bisque-like soups, roasted for side dishes or stuffed with a million different things and turned out as a centerpiece on the holiday table. The key to cooking with squashes is to have a sharp and sturdy knife to cut through the tough skin and use a light hand with cream, butter and salt so that the various and unique flavors of the different varieties can really shine through.

Strategize Ahead and Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

The holidays are meant to be a celebration and food is often central to these gatherings. You may find yourself in a situation where your choices are being made for you and rather than get too caught up in the details, allow yourself to indulge and appreciate the bigger picture of being with others in a joyful way. In the meantime, strategize ahead when you can – eat a healthy meal ahead of your gathering, drink lots of water and keep your portion sizes in check.

And in honor of the recently past Halloween and my family’s ongoing fascination with the zombie apocalypse, remember don’t eat the locals, but DO eat local!

Stuffed Pumpkin

Roasted Pumpkin Stuffed with Many Good Things

Serves approximately 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish. Can double the recipe for a larger crowd!

Ingredients:

1 small pumpkin, about 3lbs

Salt and ground black pepper

1 ½ cups bulghur or brown rice, cooked

1 ½ cups chopped apples

¼ cup sharp cheddar

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small onion, diced

1 tsp each dried rosemary and parsley (or 1 T each of fresh, chopped)

pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

4 T shredded parmesan, divided into two parts

⅓ cup of vegetable stock or milk

Directions:

Center the rack in an oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a baking dish large enough to hold the pumpkin(s) with parchment paper. Keep in mind that you may need a bit more room to maneuver a spatula in case you want to serve the pumpkin on a different dish.

With a sharp and sturdy knife, carefully cut the top ¼ or ⅓ off from your pumpkin, like you are making a jack-o-lantern. Set aside the top. Scoop out the seeds and pulp, leaving a cavity that can be filled. Season the inside of the pumpkin with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss together the next 8 ingredients, setting aside 2 T of parmesan. Pour half of the measured liquid on the mixture and toss to coat. Add more liquid as needed so that the stuffing is moist, but not swimming.

Spoon the stuffing into the pumpkin until filled to the top. Any leftover stuffing can be baked separately in a dish. Set the pumpkin in the parchment lined dish and sprinkle the remaining parmesan on top of the stuffing. Put the pumpkin top on and bake until the pumpkin is tender, about 2 hours. About 20 to 30 minutes before it is done, remove the pumpkin top so the stuffing can brown.

You can serve the pumpkin straight from the baking dish or for a more elegant presentation, using a steady hand and a sturdy spatula, transfer the whole pumpkin to a serving dish. Cut into wedges and serve!

Notes: Pumpkin seeds can be cleaned and roasted with a little olive oil. All the vegetable bits, including the pumpkin pulp, can be added to a pot with water, brought to a simmer for several minutes and strained for a delicious vegetable stock.

Cooking Variations:

  • Almost any winter squash can be used in place of the pumpkin, with roasting times varying. Smaller or elongated squashes (like delicata or butternut), can be sliced in half and the cavities filled.
  • Think of this recipe as a guideline and try variations. For example, in place of the bulghur or rice, try pieces of whole grain stale bread. Or dried cranberries or apricots for the apples. Try pairing sage with chevre or mix in feta, mozzarella and swiss. This stuffing also pairs well with cooked sausage or bacon if you would like to add meat and nuts are delicious for additional protein and healthy fats.

 

Whipped Turnips with Leeks and Sage
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

4 large turnips, peeled and cubed

2 medium red potatoes, cubed with skin on

2 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 leek, white part only, sliced thinly, soaked to remove sand/grit and then chopped finely

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage or 1 tsp of dried sage

¾ cup milk

kosher or sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Fill a large pot with the turnips and potatoes. Fill with cold salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until tender and soft. About 20 to 25 minutes.

In a small saucepan, combine the olive oil and butter and melt over medium low heat. Once melted, add the leeks and sage, salt and pepper and saute until the leeks are tender and the sage is fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the milk and bring to a simmer over low heat, infusing the milk with sage flavor.

Drain the turnips and potatoes, reserving about ½ cup of the liquid. Set that aside. Put the vegetables back into the pot they were cooked in, add the hot milk and using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. If needed, add small amounts of the cooking liquid to the vegetables until the puree is silky, but still thick. If you prefer a chunky texture, mash roughly until mixed. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot or cold.

 

by Elena Gustavson, RAFFL’s Everyday Chef

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

 

Five Ways to Stretch Your LOCAL Food Dollar

We know that spending our dollars in local businesses has a big and positive impact, both economically, environmentally and directly within our communities. We also know that those same benefits can be applied when we spend our food dollars with local farmers, which in turn have local cultural impacts as well.

This does not change the fact that local food can often be more expensive, or at least perceived as such, and for most of us, that means making every penny count.

  1. Purchase in Season. Vermont has become almost famous for its season extension techniques, as evidence of the gleaming hoop houses dotting our landscape. Although this is fantastic and beneficial, if you can stand to wait until July for your basil and August for your tomatoes, then you will find that because there is more product being produced, you will find a good price almost anywhere you decide to shop for your local food. Check out the Department of Agriculture’s Harvest Calendar to get a good idea of when food is typically being harvested in Vermont throughout the seasons.
  2. Take advantage of direct to consumer sales. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), farmers’ markets, farm stands and pick-your-own crops are fantastic ways to get fresh, local produce at a price that works for you AND the farmer. The challenge is that it isn’t as easy as one-stop shopping at the supermarket, but a great way to know your farmer and your food. Go ahead. Compare the prices of a CSA to what you would purchase in the grocery store and you could see a savings of 10% to 25%.
  3. Support local cooperatives, buying clubs/bulk purchasing and online markets. If purchasing directly from the farmer is a little too much running around for a Saturday or you prefer to have more control over what you might get in a CSA box, explore your local co-op and buying clubs for better deals than the supermarket can get you. If you are interested in buying in quantity, either on your own or with friends, many farms are able and willing to give you a discount for a minimum purchase, even if it is just the one time. More recently, online farmers’ markets make purchasing from your local farmer nothing more than a click away and although a bit more expensive than purchasing directly at the farmers’ market, usually less expensive than picking it up from the local supermarket.

frozen chix header

  1. Go whole hog. Or chicken. Or cow. Or carrot. Unlike say, the rest of the world, Americans seem adverse (okay, squeamish) to using certain parts of an animal. Lengua or beef tongue, is delicious and easy to cook for a flavorful filling in a tacos, stew or chili. It is also just a few dollars per pound when compared to a sirloin steak. The same could be said for oxtail or shin steaks, parts of the cow that are both unfamiliar to many eaters as well as cooks, but make the most amazing and flavorful additions to a braising pot. Buy a chicken whole, roast it and after you pick the carcass clean of its meat, pop what is left, bones and all, into a big pot with cold water, a few carrot tops, some onion skin and herbs and make a broth that can be frozen into bags or freezer proof jars. Use the roasted meat for sandwiches, salads, in pot pies and casseroles as well as soup and stews. For my family of seven (of which four are active teens), I can feed several lunches and dinner at least twice in a week with two, 6 lb birds. At $4/lb, it comes to approximately $2.15 per person TOTAL, not including the 4 to 6 cups of broth still in the freezer for future meals. And I haven’t even mentioned carrot top pesto, or roasted broccoli stems or sauteed chard stems or fried green tomatoes or vegetable stock…
  2. Plan. Plan. Plan. Let’s face it. We waste food. Whether it is because we live in a throwaway culture, have eyes bigger than our stomachs or just let things rot in the back of the fridge, Americans waste approximately 30% to 40% of our food supply, which equates to 20 lbs of food per person per month. Twenty. Pounds. So, if you are going to spend your hard earned dollars on local food, try to spend a half hour or so each week, making a simple plan of how to use that food. Make menus, get comfortable with cooking a few key dishes and don’t be afraid to preserve food, turn it into stocks or create make-ahead meals for the freezer. Check the end of this post for some helpful links.

Resources:

  1. Huffington Post: Why Buying Local is Worth Every Cent, Michael Saguero
  2. University of Vermont: Ten Reasons to Buy Local Food, Vern Grubinger
  3. North Carolina Cooperative Extension: Research Based Support and Extension Outreach for Local Food Systems
  4. Forbes Magazine: If You Buy Local, You’ll Have Less Money to Spend Locally, Eric Kain
  5. Vermont Department of Agriculture, Harvest Calendar
  6. Vital Communities
  7. Rutland Farm and Food Link, Farm Fresh Connect
  8. World Food Day USA

by Elena Gustavson, Rutland Area Farm & Food Link Everyday Chef

Simple Ideas Preserving Your Food

It is October, and as the days inch towards winter, there is a frantic rush to harvest what is left in our gardens and find a place in the cupboards, pantries, coolers and freezers. You see it at the markets too, with displays stocked full and overflowing with fresh eating produce, cabbages, greens, gourds, squashes and roots. It is delightful!

Elena apples

My favorite season for cooking is autumn. The heat of the kitchen seeps out into the rest of our house, staving off the morning and evening chills that punctuate this time of year, while I happily chop, stir, simmer and bake the hours away, not only putting food on the table, but putting food “by” for the cold days of winter.

Beginning in September, we are making apple cider, sauce and butter, picking herbs and hardy greens for the freezer, grabbing garden tomatoes for ripening, freezing whole or making chutney and looking forward to the fall berry season. By October, we are picking what is left in the garden for storage in our makeshift root cellar and the various drawers where we can tuck every onion, potato and squash we have harvested or bartered for. By November 1, with only a few hardy vegetables that like the cold, we are putting beds away for the winter and preserving what we can.

There are many ways to preserve food; some are simple and some are not, but most everyone can preserve a good portion of food and stock their larders. With a few simple tools, some supplies and a range, see below for some ideas of how to preserve our favorite vegetables.

Elena chardFreezing: If you have plenty of freezer space, freezing your food is a fantastic way to preserve fresh food quickly, safely and with nutrition intact. Some foods require blanching or cooking, while others just need a quick rinse and an airtight seal.

 

  • Try freezing whole tomatoes, berries, apple slices, peeled cloves of garlic, sliced or chopped onions.
  • With a pot of boiling water and a colander, you can blanch (boil briefly) and drain greens like spinach, chard, kale as well as vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots before freezing in bags.
  • For herbs like parsley, cilantro and basil, process into a paste with olive oil and then freeze the resulting pesto/pistou into ice cube trays or roll into logs, wrap in parchment and plastic first.

Canning: There are two methods of canning and lots of great information on the interweb, magazine articles and in books to give you the details, but the main thing to remember is that high-acid foods (berries, citrus) can be canned using the water bath method and low-acid foods (most vegetables, meats) can be canned using the pressure cooker method. Check out this site for more information.

Dry Salting: Different from pickling, which uses a salt AND acid based brine, salting is an ancient and very simple way to preserve food. The salt brings out the moisture from food and makes it “inhospitable” to the microbes and bacteria that would normally cause spoilage. Lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, use a low salt concentration to not only protect against spoilage, but also to create an environment that welcomes gut-friendly bacteria. High salt methods of preserving create an inhospitable environment for ALL bacteria and is still used by some to preserve things like green beans.

  • Layer shredded carrots and zucchini, sliced onion, minced garlic with sea or kosher salt and pack tightly into canning jars with lids. “Burb” the jars everyday to prevent buildup of pressure. Refrigerate or store at 40F or less to stop fermentation and keep.
  • Make kimchi or sauerkraut out of cabbage, radishes, carrots and onions. Use a wet brine of salt and keep vegetables submerged and away from air.
  • Check out the site Home Preserving Bible for a great collection of tips, techniques and recipes on dry salting.

Elena canningSyrups and Shrubs: Both of these old fashioned methods work especially well for berries and other fruit, but I have had equal luck with tomatoes, herbs and spices too. Use them in beverages, dressings and marinades!

  • For syrups, mix together two cups of berries, one cup of water and one cup of granulated sugar in a pot. Bring to a slow boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Pour the syrup, solids and all, into a wide mouth canning jar and cap. Let cool completely before refrigerating.
  • For the old fashioned shrubs, make an infused vinegar then turn that into a syrup. Check out detailed, but simple, instructions at The Kitchn.

HerbsButters: An often overlooked way of preserving some herbs and fruits is by making compound butters. With sharp knife, you can make quick work of herbs and fruits, mixing and mashing them into softened butter. When done, roll logs of butter into parchment and freeze or put into ice cube trays and pop the frozen chunks into a freezer bag for easier storage.

  • Herb butter of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Call it Scarbo-butter Faire, just for fun.
  • Fruit butter of blueberry, cinnamon and a pinch of sea salt
  • Basil or cilantro butter mixed with garlic
  • Hot pepper butter with lemon rind

 

 

by Elena Gustavson, RAFFL‘s Everyday Chef

Grilled Cauliflower “Steaks”

I visited Sonnax Industries last month to give a cooking demonstration during their lunch hour. I grilled cauliflower “steaks” and they were such  hit, I just had to share it with Everyday Chef.

This incredibly simple dish will catapult cauliflower from the ho-hum “boring” vegetable group into the star of any meal. And, the best part is that it cooks in less than 15 minutes AND doesn’t leave you with a mess in the kitchen.

Cauliflower heads

Cauliflower comes in lots of colors. I found your traditional white heads along with purple heads and a beautiful light orange-colored head that is called “cheddar”. This recipe works with any color – so go wild.

Cauliflower is in season now – and it’s never too cold to grill. So, find some local cauliflower and start cooking!

Grilling cauliflower steaks

Grilled Cauliflower Steaks

1 head local cauliflower
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp honey
3 Tbsp Emeril’s Essence seasoning (or any other spice concoction you like)
1 tsp salt

Trim stem and leaves from cauliflower head. Slice head in half and then cut 1/2″-1″ “steaks” from the inside of each half. There will be some crumbles of cauliflower, especially as you get closer to the outside of the head. Use a grill basket for the pieces that are too small for your grill grate.

Mix the olive oil, garlic and honey together and brush on both sides of the “steaks”. Then sprinkle both sides of each piece with the seasoning and salt. I often take the easy way out and use Emeril’s Essence, a pre-mixed spice bland, but you can season with chili or cayenne to make it spicy, or go Indian with a little curry powder.

Place on pre-heated grill and sear each side of the cauliflower then lower the heat, close lid and cook until tender. Serve as the main course or as a side dish.

Oven Braising 101

September always bring a pang of nostalgia for our brief and beautiful summers in Vermont, but with the cooler nights, my mind turns towards the comforting cold weather meals of autumn – steaming stews, baked casseroles and roasted or braised meats.
Of the latter, braising becomes a “go to” for feeding our a busy family of growing teenagers, so when there are several mouths to feed and not a lot of time to do, we turn to our oven, a roll of aluminum foil and a deep casserole dish or oven proof pot to give us flavorful, nutrition filled meals all season long.
Oven braising a large and tougher cut of meat requires minimal equipment, minimal prep and because the cooking is both hands off and over the course of two or three hours, it is a method that allows you time to do other things (hopefully fun things!) while the low, slow heat works its magic.

Key things to remember
Sear it:
Because meat is cooked at low temperature, I like to sear the meat in a large pan or deep pot first, giving the meat color and giving me a base to make a flavorful sauce.

Plan ahead:
Low and slow is key to making tough cuts of meat moist and meltingly tender, so make sure you give yourself at least a couple of hours to let the meat cook. If you can cook the braise a few days ahead of time, all the better! The flavors meld and mellow and the dish is even better when reheated one, two or three days later.

Keep it simple… or not:
Seasoning with a rub or soaking in a brine will do wonders to infuse the meat with flavor or to tenderize a very tough cut, but on the flipside, salt, pepper and some kind of liquid in a sealed container is really all you need to achieve big flavor and tender results.

Know the difference:
Roast = dry (tender cuts of beef, pork and lamb; whole young birds, whole fish; vegetables)

Braise = wet (less tender cuts of beef, pork and lamb; tough, older birds; vegetables)

Know your cuts:
When looking for cuts to use, looks for words like top or bottom round, shoulder, shank, butt, etc. The cuts closest to hoof and horn will be the least expensive and vice versa – cuts furthest from hoof and horn will be the most expensive. For beef, this means top and bottom rounds, chuck, shoulders, shanks and tails (yes, tails!) and for pork, we look for ham, Boston butt and picnic shoulder.

 

Beer Braised Beef with Pork Belly Onions
Serves approximately 4. See Cook’s Notes for non-alcoholic and non-pork substitutes.

Ingredients:

3 to 3 ½ pound of boneless beef round or chuck roast

1 tsp sea or kosher salt plus more to taste

1 tsp cracked/ground black pepper plus more to taste

2 tablespoons of olive or canola oil

2 slices of bacon, roughly chopped

1 medium yellow onion, sliced into half moons

1 medium carrot, finely diced

1 celery rib, finely diced

2 cloves peeled garlic, thinly sliced

12 oz bottle of favorite beer, allowed to go flat

2 cups water

Special Equipment:
4 to 5 quart oven safe pot with heavy lid or deep casserole dish and enough aluminum foil to cover snugly

Suggested Accompaniment:
creamy polenta, mashed potatoes, steamed rice or roasted root vegetables

Cook’s Notes:
Substitute an additional tablespoon of olive or canola oil for the bacon and use red wine or beef broth in place of beer.

Technique:

Sprinkle the roast with salt and pepper. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 325 f.
In a deep, heavy bottomed pot or a large sauce pan, heat the oil over medium high heat, until the oil is shimmering, but not smoking. Add the meat and with tongs, sear all sides until they take on a golden to dark golden color. Remove and let rest on a plate. Turn down the heat to medium low.
Add the bacon and cook until the fat is rendered. Add the sliced onions, stirring in the fat and cooking until just golden – approximately 7 to 10 minutes. Turn the heat back up to medium high and add the garlic, celery and carrots, continuing to cook until the vegetables are slightly soft and golden and the mixture is aromatic, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Carefully, add the beer to the pot or pan, scraping the bottom. Bring to a simmer and let reduce for about 3 to 5 minutes.
If transferring meat to an oven proof casserole, place the meat into the casserole dish and carefully pour the sauce on top. Add water to the dish. Cover tightly with two sheets of aluminum foil, pinching it around the sides to create an airtight “lid”. If using a lidded pot or dutch oven, place the meat back into the pot of sauce, add water and cover with a lid, using parchment paper to create a more airtight seal if necessary.

Place the covered meat and sauce into the preheated oven. Allow to cook in the oven for 2 ½ to 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender.
If possible, allow the meat to sit in the cooler for 2 or 3 days and reheat on the stove top. Serve with suggested accompaniments.

 

by Elena Gustavson, RAFFL’s Everyday Chef
Photo Credit: Elena Gustavson, Supper at the Farm, Craftsbury, VT 2013

Summer Squash Salad

I’m making the most of the summer vegetable supply before the first frost shows up – which could be any day now – which is why this light, delicious summer squash salad is a perfect addition to any meal.

This recipe comes to us from the Norwich Inn‘s chef Luis Luna. The Inn served this on the summer menu and Luis was nice enough to share the recipe with Everyday Chef. Luis juliennes the squash with a mandolin –  which makes perfect shoestrings from the summer squash.  I don’t have a mondoline, so, I used a spiralizer – which can make vegetable “noodles” from almost any vegetable. My version wasn’t quite as professional looking, but it still tasted great.

summer squash salad ingredients

summer squash spiralizing400x250

Simply blanch the julienned squash and red peppers for 1 minute, drain and cool.

Mix together the lime juice, honey, water, sweet Thai chili sauce, and chives. combine the blanched vegetables with the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste.

dressing ingredients400x250

Summer Squash Salad

4 summer squash, julienne
1 red pepper, julienne
juice from 3 limes
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup water
1 cup chives, chopped to 2″
1 cup sweet Thai chili sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Summer squash salad photo Julia A Reed250x400

It’s that simple! I love this great new way to enjoy one of my favorite summer vegetables, that is light, easy, a so quick to make!

 

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