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

Pea Shoots

Have you tried pea shoots? How about sunflower? Shoots are the early growth of the plant at just a few days after sprouting. That’s why you’ll most likely find them out only around this time of year, when farmers are just getting their plants growing. They have tender, sweet leaves and a crunchy stem. And, yup, it’s all edible. What’s really cool about these shoots is that they taste very much like peas and sunflower seeds, but in a fraction of the time it would take for the whole plant to grow. Even better is that they’re super high in nutrients.

So how do you eat them? Easy. On and with anything. Like me, you can stack them on your favorite sandwiches or also like me – with eggs. They’re excellent in a salad or as a salad all their own. Or if you’d like to cook them, try sauteing with garlic and a little soy sauce. A stir fry would be perfect too. However you choose to enjoy them, just make sure you do so soon – they won’t be around for long!

How To Grill Veggies: Tips and a Few Recipes

We certainly got lucky this past Saturday. Despite the very un-summer like weather we’ve been having, the sun was actually shining. And the deliciously grown foods available at that morning’s market were just waiting to hit the grill. With the expertise of guest chef Randal Smathers, we set up at Rutland’s newest community garden (The Northwest Garden located on the corner of Park and Baxter streets) and demonstrated to neighbors and passersby to how easy and tasty it is to grill fresh vegetables.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway of the event was that almost anything can be grilled. Tomatoes, peppers, squashes, onions, snap peas, fennel and corn were just a few items we used with a degree of success. We don’t suggest grilling rhubarb, however – though it was a fun experiment.

Here are a few of Randal’s grilling tips:

  • Oil the grill – not the veggies. This prevents burning and an unpleasant oily taste. When oiling the grill, do so just lightly and apply with a paper towel. It’s also important to make sure the grill is well cleaned beforehand.
  • It’s much easier to grill the veggies first, then chop. Smaller pieces are more difficult to control when on the grill and it’s easy to lose them down the grates.
  • Pay attention to the grill. Foods can cook pretty quick, especially veggies, and it doesn’t take long for something to burn.

And here’s what we made:

Grilled Veggie Salad. There’s really no recipe for this one. Just grill up your favorite mix of vegetables, slice and toss together with just a little olive oil, salt and any fresh herbs you have on hand.

 

Grilled Salsa

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: about 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 ears of corn
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 onion, halved and papery outside skin removed
  • 2 medium – hot peppers (your preference)
  • small bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • hot sauce (optional)
  • lime juice (optional)

Instructions

  1. Soak the ears of corn in water for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the grill to high heat and lightly coat the crates with olive oil.
  3. Place the corn, tomatoes, onion and peppers on the grill, intact.
  4. Cook until everything is slightly charred.
  5. Let cool a couple of minutes before handling and then remove the corn husks, tomato stem and outer layer of skin on the peppers and onions.
  6. Slice the corn off the cob, chop the onions, peppers, tomatoes and the cilantro.
  7. Toss everything together in a large bowl with some salt, a glug of oil and a splash of lime juice, and a couple dashes of hot sauce, if using.
Grilled Veggie Salad with Honey Yogurt Dressing

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 +

You can use any combo of fresh veggies and herbs here. Try it as a side to meat or main dish tossed with pasta. If you already have grilled veggies leftover, you can put this together in just a couple of minutes.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of mixed grilled veggies sliced into medium sized pieces
  • 1 cup of fresh herbs, chopped (use your favorite mix of summer herbs)
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon grill seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • salt

Instructions

  1. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Gado Gado: An Indonesian Salad

You probably don’t need another salad recipe. That’s why I’m sharing a salad idea. Gado Gado, which translates to “mix mix,” is made up of surprisingly ordinary ingredients – raw or cooked vegetables, greens, eggs, tofu or tempeh, and peanut sauce are typical.
But with variations throughout Indonesia, there is no one way to prepare the dish or a set list of ingredients to adhere to. In fact, Gado Gado is one of the most popular dishes in Indonesia and I’m betting that’s because of the versatility. Or maybe because it’s just a great way to toss together leftovers.

Gado Gado: An Indonesian Salad

Ingredients

For the salad:
    • Greens
    • Cooked rice
    • Your choice of vegetables, either raw or cooked or a mix of both – such as broccoli, beans, cabbage, snow peas, carrots, or sprouts
    • Protein – tofu, tempeh, eggs, shredded chicken or pork
    • Peanut sauce
For the peanut sauce:
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp. grated ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp.soy sauce
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • Salt, if needed

pbsauce

However, a good peanut sauce is at the heart of Gado Gado. It’s probably the one thing you need to pay attention to here. I referenced Mollie Katzen’s recipe in The New Moosewood Cookbookthough based on other peanut sauces I’ve made, the ingredients here are pretty standard.

Just combine peanut butter with soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, water and red pepper flakes in a blender or food processor until smooth.

What I love about peanut sauces is that they encompass so many of our basic tastes – sweet, sour, salty, umami and maybe even a little bitter. It could be why I could put the sauce on almost anything.

Play with the ratios of these ingredients to make the sauce flavored to your liking. It’s easy to up the red pepper, for instance, and transform it into a really spicy peanut sauce if that’s what your feeling. Or increase the sugar for a sweet version. Experiment and customize it to the food you’re putting it on.

I’ve also seen peanut sauces amplified with coconut milk, fish sauce and/or lime juice. You could try adding these in too, but I think the ingredients listed here make a good start.

I used Katzen’s idea here by adding 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric to the rice as it cooked (2 cups rice simmered in 3 cups water until tender, adding more water, if need). The turmeric adds some color, a little flavor, and all of those health claims people are raving about lately. Interestingly, it’s dubbed the poor man’s saffron.

Then add your vegetables to the plate. I quickly steamed snow peas, carrots, and shiitakes. Be creative in your combo and if you prefer a crunch, skip the cooking and enjoy them raw. Next goes the protein. I luckily found a hard boiled egg left in the fridge and I was content with just that. Tofu and tempeh are popular in Gado Gado, though I don’t see why shredded chicken or pork couldn’t work either. If you have it, use it. If you want it, cook it up or go get it. You can put as much or as little effort into this dish and as long as your peanut sauce is good, I don’t see how you can go wrong.

gado

Finally, drizzle on the peanut sauce. Don’t skimp. Toss, or perhaps I should say mix, it all together. If you want, throw on a topping. I chose pea shoots, but chopped peanuts could work or how about some fresh herbs? And that folks, is all there is to Gado Gado.

Eat Your Freezer Clean! Week Two – Vegetables

Thank you for joining us on our second installment of the Eat Your Freezer Clean challenge! By treating our freezer like an organized and important tool in our kitchen, not only can we feed ourselves and loved ones with wholesome, nourishing meals, but we will save time, money and reduce waste.

It is (finally!) spring in the Upper Valley and the opening day of the season’s outdoor farmers’ market is weeks away.  While we wait in anticipation of all the good things that warmer weather will give us, let’s take a closer look at the vegetables you saved from last year; a teaser to the variety we can all look forward to in the summer and fall months.

Recipes abound on the internet on how to use your frozen vegetables, so below we gathered a few of our personal favorites and inspirations that are quick, easy and flexible.

 

CORN

  1. Quick and Easy Pan Roasted Side Dish– Choose a large skillet with a lid. Heat the skillet over medium heat, add a teaspoon or two of olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer (takes several seconds) and slips around easily in the pan, but isn’t smoking, throw in a cup or two of frozen corn and quickly stir to coat with oil. Cover the pan and shake the corn over the heat occasionally, letting the corn steam for a few minutes. Uncover and continue to stir while the corn softens, browns and slightly carmelizes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a pinch of red chili flakes. I like to drizzle a bit of maple syrup on top when eating as a side dish with savory meats.
  2. Use in Soups, Chilis and Stews – Add a cup of corn to a pot of simmering soup, chili or stew during the last few minutes of cooking. Top with any fresh herbs you might have on hand or might be getting leggy in the window, parsley or cilantro being two readily available favorites.
  3. Salad – Thaw frozen corn overnight in the refrigerator and drain in a colander. Because corn is blanched before frozen, it is just toothsome enough after thawing that it pairs wonderfully in a crisp salad. Try topping chopped romaine with black beans, thawed corn, your favorite salsa and chopped cilantro.

cookedspinach_ccmorguefile_small

Greens, Cooking

  1. Thaw, Drain, Dry – This method applies to all sorts of greens, but is especially useful with spinach as the leaves tend to retain a lot of moisture. Thaw your greens and drain in a colander. Using a clean dish towel with a tight weave, gather a large handful and wrap in the towel, twisting and squeezing out the water. OR just use your bare hands, as I tend to do because I hate to do more laundry than I need to. Or better yet, click on over to The Kitchn and give this ingenious tip a try, especially if you have a potato ricer gathering dust in your drawer.
  2. Green Smoothie – This works best with small frozen chunks, rather than large or thawed greens, but if you have ice cube sized frozen greens, try throwing a few in a blender with a bit of your favorite liquid (dairy or dairy-free milk, juice or even a bit of water), some fruit (I like to use frozen apples or fresh past their prime, frozen bananas or berries) and a tablespoon of nut butter. Give it a whirl, sweeten with honey or maple syrup if you need to and you have yourself a tasty, healthy treat!
  3. Use in Soups, Chilis and Stews – Throw frozen greens into a simmering pot either a two or three minutes or several minutes before (if they are LARGE chunks) your favorite ladle-friendly meal is done cooking. Easy, delicious, healthy. We like that.

potatoescutcolander_ccmorguefile

Potatoes

  1.  Casseroles – There is nothing tastier than a comforting, warm casserole on a cool spring day. Frozen potatoes can be thrown into any egg or potato based casserole of your choosing. For a nutritious and filling one dish meal, toss frozen potato cubes (or shred), frozen greens, frozen corn and fresh or frozen onions with a glug of olive oil, salt and pepper. Put in a casserole dish and pour on a bowl full of eggs beaten with a bit of flour and milk. Dollop with ricotta cheese and bake in a 350 degree oven until puffed and lightly brown or about 25 to 35 minutes depending on the size of your dish.
  2. Soups, Chilis and Stews – Are you beginning to see a pattern here? Frozen potato cubes can be thrown into any ladle-friendly meal about 15 minutes or so before it is finished simmering. You can also make a quick potato soup by covering two cups of frozen potatoes with your favorite salted/seasoned broth and simmering until tender and either pureeing for a silky bisque-like soup or keep it chunky and throw in other quick cooking veggies or leftover cooked meat.
  3. Get Ethnic! – Many cuisines use potatoes and two of my favorite are Indian curries and the delicious Spanish tortilla. Use care when cooking any frozen potatoes in oil and use the moisture they release to help cook them further by covering or partially covering the pan with a lid.

frozen-rhubarb_ccmorguefile_smallfrozen rhubarb_ccmorguefile_small

Other Frozen Friends:

  1. Rhubarb – bake in a pie with strawberries or stew with sugar and water to make a sauce
  2. Tomatoes – chop frozen whole tomatoes with a sharp knife and add to ladle-friendly meals or cook with butter, garlic, pesto or dried herbs for a quick pasta sauce
  3. Zucchini – add to ladle-friendly meals or thaw, drain and dry like you would frozen greens and add to muffins, cake, bread or saute in bit of butter and chopped onions until tender for a delicious side dish.
  4. Peas – beside the usual steaming or throwing into macaroni and cheese, try making soup! Here is a link to my absolute favorite recipe for fresh pea soup. And it is JUST as delicious and beautiful if you do not puree it.
  5. Winter Squash – Boil until tender, mash with a fork or whisk and serve as a side dish with a touch of salt and butter. Also try it in pancakes, make a silky coconut milk bisque or substitute the sweet potato in this delicious southern recipe for cake.
  6. Mixed Veggies – Use for stir-fry, fried rice, ladle-friendly meals or bake into a vegetable lasagna or make pasta primavera. It is that easy.

 

Resources:

The Kitchn – How to Make Your Frozen Vegetables Suck a Little Less

Epicurious.com

New York Times Diner’s Journal

BBC Good Food

Spring Freezer Cleanout: Turkey Pot Pie

how-long-food-last

Earlier this week I joined Bethany Yon from the VT Department of Health on her show, What’s Cooking Rutland. The theme was cleaning out the freezer. Bethany and I took inventory of our freezers and were surprised by how much we found – especially in leftover fruits and vegetables from last year’s harvest.

Now is a good time to see what is hanging out in there and to start using up what you already have before the season really kicks off and you start buying more. It’s not a bad idea to clear out anything questionable either. Here’s a useful guide to reference while determining what may or may not be worth saving.

Fruits and vegetables, for instance, shouldn’t spend more than a year in your freezer.

We based the show’s menu around what we found. When I discovered green beans, kale, carrots, homemade chicken stock, herbs, and pie crust, a pot pie came to mind. Then Bethany told me she had turkey breast from Thanksgiving. Perfect.

I took the items out of the freezer earlier in the day to defrost and lightly pressed out some of the water that was left in some of the vegetables. While you could try making this without defrosting the vegetables (the meat, on the other hand, will definitely require a defrost period), you might end up with a pretty watery pie. It’s harder to drain out the excess liquid at that point.

While I worked on the pie, Bethany made the blueberry and maple syrup sorbet we posted last year and a refreshing strawberry rhubarb soup. I usually don’t like rhubarb, but that was good stuff.

The show will be airing all through April on PEG-TV and streaming on their site as well. Check it out. Here’s the recipe for the pot pie. Of course, you could use ingredients that haven’t been frozen as well.

Turkey Pot Pie

  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups stock
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked, cubed turkey (or chicken)
  • 3 cups mixed vegetables
  • 2-3 Tbsp. of your favorite herbs (such as thyme, rosemary, parsley, oregano), chopped
  • 1 or 2 sheets of pie crust, either homemade or store bought
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for a few minutes, until translucent. Stir in the flour and let cook for a minute, while moving around the pan, before pouring in the stock. Bring to a simmer for a couple of minutes and then add the meat, vegetables, and herbs. Simmer for 5 minutes until everything is heated through and the sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.

If you’d like both a bottom and top crust to your pie, go ahead and spread one sheet of dough over the bottom of a pie plate. A casserole dish could work too, if desired. Ladle in the contents of the pan and then top with another sheet of dough. Crimp the edges of the dough if you’re looking to have a nice presentation, or if you’re too eager to bother, just make a few slits with a knife. Brush with the beaten egg, for a browner, crispier crust, place on a baking sheet, and slide into the oven.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until the crust is looking golden brown. Remove and let cool as long as you can before slicing up and digging in.