Thursday, January 26, 2017

Turnip the Beet and Jam!

I take no credit for the clever title on this one - I fully admit that I got it off a tote bag I found at Old Navy - but be honest, would you have opened this post if it just said "Turnips!"? Probably not. A coworker recently described the turnips she gets in her CSA box as "those weird white things I always give my neighbors" which is just sad. A turnip is just as versatile as a white potato in that you can bake them, boil them, microwave them, saute them, or shred them. Really, anything you can do to a normal white potato, you should try with a turnip. From a farmers' perspective, they're cheap to grow and the greens are also great to eat as you'll see below. I especially like mashed turnips which I do just like potatoes only drain the boiled turnips through a rice strainer for a while before mashing because they have more water than a potato, no recipe needed for that one!

Here are two super easy recipes anyone can do with turnips but regardless, give these root veggies a chance next time you see them in your CSA or at the farmers market. In Charlotte, Bell's Best Berries and Rowland Farms both have these beauties from November through whenever they run out.

Easy Peasy Sauteed Turnips (V)
4-5 large turnips, roots and greens removed (peeling is optional!) and cut in irregular ~1" chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons sea salt or salt of choice
  1. Heat a large saute pan with oil in it on high
  2. Once up to heat, toss in the turnips
  3. Let the turnips really cook on each side before turning, allowing them to get a nice dark color (that's the sugars coming together and is what makes them yummy), about 4-5 minutes total
  4. Serve hot
Stewed Crock Pot Turnip Greens (V)
1 large bunch turnip greens (3-4 cups), cleaned well and chopped in ~1" strips
1 cup white or apple cider vinegar
3-4 tablespoons oil olive
Salt and pepper to taste
Non-vegetarian options: if you eat meat or love butter, you can use about half a stick of butter or bones or fat from meat of your choice instead of olive oil (bacon, ham hock, butter, beef broth are all great options)
  1. Combine all of the above in your favorite crock pot. 
  2. I like to do them long and low but if you have limited time, make sure to stir often and keep the greens wets or they'll char which is not delicious.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Pasta Time!

Raise your hand if you're married. Raise your hand if, while engaged, you registered for a pasta maker. Now, raise your hand if that pasta maker is still in its box, unopened and unused. Yeah, that was me until about a month ago when I learned how easy it is to make delicious, homemade, from scratch, organic and possibly totally local pasta.

All you need to make a basic pasta dough is about 4 cups of flour and 5 eggs. If you want to make vegan pasta, you can use mineral water instead of flour. You'll also need a pasta press unless you're really good with a rolling pin (which I'm not). Put 3 cups (1 pound exactly if you have a kitchen scale) in a large, wide mixing bowl and make a crater in the middle. Put all 5 eggs in the crater and beat with a fork until you can't anymore and have to use your hands to knead it together. The dough won't be uniform and that's fine. Get a bunch of extra flour in a pile. I suggest using a SilPat or clean your counter super well. Take a small handful of dough and knead it a bit. Set your pasta press to 1 and run the dough through. Flour both sides, food it once, then run it through again. Do this 4-5 times or until the dough is uniform looking and doesn't stick to the rollers. Then roll it once at a level 3 then once at a level 5 or 6.

Now you've got dough you can do a lot with. You can cut it in squares and make ravioli, run it through a vermicelli or linguini cutter, or cut in long strips for lasagna. Once you've cut your pasta, lay it out on some clean towels to dry for at least an hour:

The raviolis laid out to dry.
For my ravioli, I took a cup of kale, several mushrooms and 4-5 tablespoons of Parmesan and food processed them. That made about 14 2x2 raviolis which were delicious.

So pull that pasta maker out, get some fresh local eggs, and get rolling!

About 4 2x2 raviolis plus some veggies and crusty bread was more than enough for dinner!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Great Fritter-Off of 2015

It's March and by now, most of us are getting tired of the winter vegetables that have been in farmers markets for months. Hard squash, endless green-housed greens, and potatoes potatoes potatoes, am I right? So the challenge becomes: how do I make interesting and delicious food with the same ingredients my family has been eating for months?

I posed this to a friend on a recent visit to Chapel Hill and we decided to mix things up with would with a fritter contest. The only rules is that the primary vegetable had to be seasonal. Here's what we came up with:

Fritter 1:
White Russet potatoes

Fritter 2:
White sweet potatoes

Fritter 3:
Red sweet potatoes

Fritter 4:
Celery root* and carrot

*For those not familiar with celery root, it's that really ugly, alien-looking ball that you can find near the parsnips and carrots in the grocery store and, of course, some farmers markets will have them as well.

The basic concept for fritters is to grate your primary ingredient, toss it in scrambled egg with salt and pepper and fry it up on a gridle. This highlights the flavor of your main ingredient and serves as a great vehicle for fun sauces. My friend whipped up a delicious Greek yogurt sauce with dill and mint. On the table we also had some Lusty Monk Mustard, some standard ketchup, and relish made by a family friend.

Looks like shredded Cheddar, is actually sweet potato!
Here are the three more interesting types, missing the standard fritter made from regular baking potatoes:

The moral of the story is that with a friend, some imagination and a willing audience, you can make any food fun - even if you've been eating it for months!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Delicious Mistakes

Have you ever been really excited about a recipe, gotten everything prepared then realized that your mayo has gone bad or you didn't buy sugar last week like that you thought you had? Have you ever turned that situation around and made lemonade from lemons? The former happens to me often, usually when I think something in fridge is still fresh but it's wilted or I underestimate how much of an ingredient I really need.

Last weekend, I had big plans to make a delicious, traditional apple pie. I often make pies but I don't always go the extra mile of making the crust from scratch. The new apple guy at the Atherton Market had some Granny Smith's that were so beautiful I couldn't help but splurge for a few extras for this recipe. Fast forward to Saturday evening when I have the crust (using butter from Queen City Pantry) and my apples peeled and sliced and in a bowl. I sprinkle in a liberal dose of cinnamon (from Savory Spice Shop), added the sugar and the juice I had in the fridge (this time was grapefruit), mixed it together and poured it in the crust. When I sampled one of the apple slices, however, it was spicy hot. At first I thought my cinnamon was bad but I use it often so I looked closer at the container and realized that I had used cayenne pepper (also from Savory Spice) instead of cinnamon!

Disaster, right? But far be it from me to waste an otherwise perfectly good pie so I put a dash of actual cinnamon in the pie, dotted the top with butter, put the lid on and baked it. To the surprise of everyone (especially me), an amazingly delicious pie that my husband swears is the best I've ever made popped out an hour later.

Don't trust me? Here's the recipe so you can see for yourself.

Spicy Surprise Apple Pie (v)
5 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, sliced into 1 inch slices, 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/3 cup juice of your choice (suggest grapefruit, orange or lemon)
1 top and 1 bottom pie crust
3-4 pats butter
  1. Prepare pie crust.
  2. Combine apples, sugar, cayenne, and juice in a bowl and stir to coat apples.
  3. Empty apples in pie crust and sprinkle cinnamon then dot top with half pats of butter.
  4. Apply top crust and squish rim together.
  5. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes then turn down the heat to 325 until crust is golden brown, about 40 minutes.
  6. Enjoy warm or room temperature.

Note: I got this awesome pie bird for my birthday from a friend. It's made by Le Creuset and you bake it right into the middle of the pie. It helps cook the filling fully but allowing steam to escape (or something) and it really does the trick!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Comfy Cozy Soup Recipe

I don't know about where you are, but here in Charlotte it's been unseasonably cold and gray the last week. Everyone seems to be coming down with a cold or the flu (yours truly included) and sometimes you just need a good bowl of soup.

I wrote this recipe out for a friend recently who is trying the Whole30 program which doesn't allow grains, dairy, alcohol or processed foods. This recipe is perfect for those following that program but also avoiding meat. It's also super easy and you probably have most of this in your frigerator right now. 

The onion and garlic can be found pretty much at any market this time of year; I used squash or zucchini that I've frozen from the summer because we always end up with so much; and the kale is also readily available but I always get mine from Coto Farms.

Comfy Vegetable Soup (V)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion or 1 whole shallot, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
~1-2 cups consisting of the following: mushrooms, squash or zucchini and/or kale
1 large can petite diced tomatoes
4-6 cups of vegetable broth (depending on how many cups of veggies you add)
Your favorite seasoning - our favorites are tumeric, chili, cayenne, or Peak Lemon Pepper (not together, pick one or two that complement each other)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Saute the olive oil, onion/shallot and garlic until softened.
  2. Add in the veggies and cook at high heat till they have some color on them.
  3. Add the tomatoes and about 2 cups broth and bring to a boil.
  4. Season then add the rest of the broth and bring to a boil.
  5. Simmer on medium-low for 20-30 minutes to combine flavors.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Triumphant Return that Tastes like Chicken

2014 has been an amazing year for this blogger - I got married, traveled to two new countries and several new states, launched a huge software project at work, and finished a second year of adjunct teaching at UNC-C. Needless to say, that's left very little room for writing here, despite no slow down in the amount of cooking I've done.

Now that life has quieted down, I'm back at the wheel and hope to add a bunch of new recipes in the coming weeks and months. I'm going to start with one that I've made a couple times recently, a roasted chicken with local seasonal herbs. The great thing about this is that you can size up the recipe for turkey or turkey breast which I've done twice with great success. It's also a pretty dish that has great leftovers potential for both stock (suggested recipe below) and sandwiches. The chicken, as always, came from Windy Hill, the herbs from Coto Farms who always has an amazing selection throughout the year, and the carrots, beets and turnips are from my friends at the Lomax Incubator. 

A note about herbs: yes, you can use dried herbs and if you do, I suggest getting high quality ones from an actual spice shop. The dried herbs you get in sets from a Bed, Bath and Beyond-type place are probably old and not awesome. However, herbs are really easily grown in greenhouses or just in people's homes so you can usually find fresh herbs all year round locally. Fresh herbs taste and look better in a recipe and really add an element of freshness, especially in the winter when our food tends to have less bold flavors.

Easy Roast Chicken (LPO)
2-3 large carrots
2-3 turnips
2-3 beets 

1 onion
1 whole head of garlic
1 bunch fresh sage
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh rosemary
1 whole lemon, cut in half
1 whole chicken
Butter, olive oil, salt and pepper as necessary

  1. Line a dutch oven with olive oil. Cut the vegetables in 1 inch pieces and line the dutch oven with them. Chop about 1 tablespoon of each herb and set aside.
  2. Stuff the chicken with the whole lemon, several cloves of garlic, and the rest of the herbs (unchopped is best, use the whole stem and leaves).
  3. Soften a couple tablespoons of better in the microwave then mix that with the chopped herbs. You can either rub these over the chicken's skin or, if you're daring, tuck them under the chicken skin (this is ideal, it really keeps the bird moist later).
  4. Put the chicken in the pan over top of the veggies. Drizzle some olive oil over the whole bird and tie the wings together with string (optional but this helps it cook more evenly).
  5. Bake uncovered at 400 for 15 minutes to get a nice glaze on the skin and then turn the oven down to 350 and cook the rest of the way (the inside temp of the bird needs to be 165 or, if you don't have a meat thermometer, cut one of the legs away some and check for a minimal amount of pink). Cook time really varies based on the size and fat-iness of your bird but this could take up to 2 hours. A good local bird like I had from Windy Hill will only take about an hour to an hour and a half but a fattier bird from the grocery store could take two.
Looks professional, was super simple!

To make chicken stock later:
  1. Keep the chicken and any leftover vegetables (though you might want to remove the beets because they'll turn your stock red) in the dutch oven or other large soup pot.
  2. Fill with water until it's covering most of the bird or 1 inch below the rim of the pot, whichever is lower.
  3. Add salt, pepper and chopped celery (optional)
  4. Place on stove and bring to a boil. Once it's boiled for a minute or two, reduce heat and simmer for up to an hour. Then you can remove the chicken, leaving any meat you still have around, and voila, chicken stock for soups or cooking later!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I'll Make Lamb (With Gnocchi)

Now that I'm eating limited meat again, I'm almost already bored of it. Since I can't eat beef and we chose to limit our pork consumption due to the recent purchase of a family pig, that doesn't leave a lot of popular meat. Chicken is the most likely solution but who wants to eat chicken all the time?

Never fear, Windy Hill Farms has lamb! As do many farms in North Carolina along with goat many places as well. Windy Hill has an amazing lamb chorizo sausage that I just discovered recently. I've made other chorizo recipes here before but I decided to be a little crazy this time. I got some sweet potato gnocchi from Rio Bertolini at the Atherton Market. Onions and leeks are also all over the market these days as well as the standard kale varieties, of which my new favorite is German kale which is strong and a little salty. Throw all this together on a weeknight and we had a super easy meal Hamburger Helper would be jealous of...

Lamb Chorizo With Gnocchi (LPO)
4 links lamb chorizo sausage
2 leeks, sliced thin up to the green part
2-3 spring onions, sliced thin up to the green stem
Garlic, minced, to taste
1 package sweet potato gnocchi
1 large handful chopped kale
  1. In a large skillet, heat some olive oil to medium-high. Add all garlic, leeks and onions.
  2. Simmer until they've softened then add the sausage (remove the skin).
  3. Cook until mixed (note: you may have to help the sausage break up). Add kale, cover and turn heat down to medium-low.
  4. Make the gnocchi and cook until just before done. Drain.
  5. Add gnocchi to the sausage mixture. Turn once or twice until just mixed and heated through. Don't mix too much or it will break up the gnocchi.
  6. Serve hot!