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Recipe: Asparagus Quiche

Yesterday while I was at the hardware store, I struck gold when I discovered that they had local eggs for sale.  I’d been hoping to find a source for them, and it turns out there are lots!  When I got home, I told Ann (who owns the farm) about my find and she said “Oh yeah- you can get them anywhere!  They sell them at my gym!”  I love farming communities…

It was perfect, because the other day I came across a delicious looking recipe in an issue of Everyday Food that looked perfect- asparagus quiche.  I don’t know that there is anything that screams “SPRING” quite like that.  I made it last night (after hours weeding the asparagus patch- how appropriate) and it was even better than I thought it would be!

*a disclaimer about my recipes- I don’t tend to follow any true measurements.  I’m more of an “eh- that looks about right” kinda girl.  These are close approximations.

Asparagus Quiche – Adapted from an Everyday Food recipe

Ingredients-

  • 1 Bunch of Asparagus (mine ended up being about 2 1/2 cups when chopped)
  • 1 large leek
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped (or a little more, or a little less.  I LOVE garlic, and mine is sprouting like crazy, so I’m trying to use it up.  This was pretty garlicky)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk or half and half
  • 1 cup+ shredded cheese (the original recipe calls for Gruyère, which is a really nice swiss cheese.  I had Monterey jack, so I used that and it was excellent- the tang of the cheese contrasted well with the asparagus.  I think it would be just as good with a nice sharp cheddar.  I also had some small pieces of nice Asiago and Pecorino Romano, so I threw a few tablespoons of each of those in as well.  Listen, we are talking about cheese here- anything you put in will be delicious.  Also: more is better!)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pie crust (I used the Pilsbury pre-made ones from the grocery store)

1.  Preheat your oven to 350.  If you have an oven that heats from the top, put a rack in the bottom of the oven- you don’t want the quiche too close to the element.

2.  Rinse and chop your asparagus and leeks.  Asparagus cut into small, diagonal pieces, leeks quartered and thinly sliced.  Chop your garlic.

  • Here’s how to prep ANY asparagus:  Hold a spear up with one hand and the very bottom and one hand just below the tip- bend the asparagus until the snaps.  The bottom end is yucky and old and stringy- don’t use that!  The top end is glorious and yummy and fresh.  some of them will snap close to the bottom and others close to the top.  Short pieces are upsetting, I know, but you don’t want tough asparagus.  Save the old, yucky ends for vegetable scrap stock!
  • How to wash leeks:  Cut off those big glorious green leaves- you just want to use the white parts.  DON’T cut off the end- that holds everything together for washing.  Slice the whole shebang in half, along the full length of the leek.  You now have two halves of the leek, with all the layers nestling together.  You can run these under the water to rinse them, and the end cap will keep everything together.  It is very neat that way!

3.  In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.  Saute the asparagus, leeks, and garlic for a few minutes, stirring frequently.  You don’t want to overcook anything- this is just giving the veggies a head start on the cooking they will do in the oven.  When the asparagus starts looking really bright and the leeks are fragrant, you’re done.  Remove from heat

4.  Roll out your pie crust in the pie pan- have it waiting to receive.

5.  Whisk the eggs and milk together.  The original recipe here calls for half and half, but I just used 2% milk.  It WAS a little bit watery, so perhaps whole milk would have been just fine.  It didn’t bother me, but if you think it would bother you, I’d use the half and half.  Season the egg and milk mixture to taste.  I used about a tsp each of black pepper and salt, but I am not a huge salt eater so you may like more.   Mix the cheese into the egg mixture- stir well to make sure it isn’t a big giant lump of cheese in the bottom of your bowl.

6.  Pour the veggies into the pie dish and spread evenly over the bottom.  Pour the egg/milk/cheese mixture on top of the veggies, making sure to get some cheese on every part.  Put your pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet (it may bubble over) and put it in the oven.   Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the center is set and no longer wobbly.

We had this for dinner, but it would be magnificent for brunch.  Both of us ate two pieces.  I’m probably going to go eat some more for breakfast this morning.   This is asparagus season!  Take advantage of it, and try this quiche!

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I hesitate to call this a recipe because…well…it isn’t.  It’s basically a guideline of how I make my veggie stock.  I’ve been doing this for about a year and  a half now, and I’m so frustrated at myself that I didn’t start doing it earlier, because I’ve wasted a lot of money on store-bought vegetable stock in the past.

This is something that I love doing because I only use things that would normally go in the compost bucket anyway, so it is essentially free to make.

Whenever I’m making anything with vegetables, I keep a bowl beside me that my scraps go into.  And this is anything- the ends of carrots, peels of potatoes, skins of onions, etc.- that I wouldn’t use in whatever I’m cooking.  In my freezer, I keep a big tupperware container and a couple of big ziplock bags that I put all of these scraps into.  Once they are all full, I make veggie stock.  I can usually get 6-7 pints of stock each time I do this.

Now you can, of course, make stock just like this out of whole vegetables, and I’ve certainly been known to do that if I know I’m going to need some and I don’t have enough in the freezer, but this ramshackle way feels so good.  Like I’m recycling my vegetables.

I’ve actually got a pot simmering away as we speak.  Here’s what I’ve got in it (as far as I can tell…who knows what I’ve collected):

  • onion skins and pieces
  • carrot peels and ends
  • parsnip peels
  • potato peels
  • garlic ends
  • leeks that got too old to use in soup
  • mushroom stems
  • green bean ends
  • cauliflower and broccoli branches
  • celery leaves and trimmings
  • summer squash ends

And probably some other stuff that I couldn’t make out…what a collection, eh?  I also frequently thow in parsley stems if I have any hanging around, but I don’t at the moment.

I put everything into a  heavy-bottomed pot (I used my enamel dutch oven that was a FANTASTIC gift from my mom), pour cold water over it (I use a pint jar so I can keep count of how many I will need prepped when I can it afterwards) and turn the heat on low.  I don’t like the water to heat up too fast because remember, my veggies are frozen solid at this point, and I don’t want them to cook into mush.

The absolute key to doing this is to not cook them too much.  You never want the water at a full boil- a low simmer is ideal- because the stock will get bitter if it over cooks and then you’ve just wasted all your scraps!  It usually takes me a couple of hours to do this.  But you don’t have to hover!  Just turn it onto low, cover it, and let it simmer for a while.  Keep an eye on it and stir it occasionally while it cooks.  I don’t even have a time to tell you, because it depends entirely on what scraps you are using.  I read a lot of 18th century cookbooks, and they have this great direction in most recipes: “cook it until it is done” with no other guidelines!  It cracks me up every time, but ovens and fires could vary so wildly that they never could give an exact time.  This is the same type of thing.    Usually when the water starts to take on a nice color, I taste it to see if it has flavor.

Now this is a little tricky, because I don’t add any salt to mine (I always use unsalted broth), so it doesn’t really taste good to my palate.  However, you can taste the flavors of the veggies, and when it stops tasting like weird water, then you’ve got it.  I take it off the heat, strain the veggies out, put the broth into pint jars and process them.  It also freezes very well, and I always did this before I got my pressure canner.  I usually measured it out into 2 cup portions and froze it in freezer bags.  It also works very well in ice cube trays if you need smaller amounts (just make sure that you measure how many ice cubes to a cup and write it on the bag!).

If your broth never achieved the flavor you wanted, you can also concentrate it by cooking down the strained liquid until it has a flavor that you like.   It’s very flexible.

If you aren’t already doing this, you really should start saving your scraps.  Every time I make it I feel like I’ve gotten something from absolutely nothing.  The only drawback is that if you make really excellent stock, it’s impossible to re-create, so it is kind of a crap shoot.  One thing to remember is to try and keep it as balanced as you can.  Too many potato peels will make it far too starchy, too many coles will make it really bitter, too many carrots and parsnips will make it too sweet, etc.  Be careful of your proportions.

Do any of you make your own veggie stock?  What method you do you use?

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Recipe: Hearty Lentil Soup

One of my favorite easy dishes is Lentil Soup, and on Saturday I made a huge pot of it just to freeze.  Pete especially loves this dish.  When I read the recipe the first time, I was skeptical because Lentil Soup?  Doesn’t that sound boring?

Pete said I should try it anyway, because he loves lentils so much and they are incredibly cheap and even more healthy so what did we have to lose?  I was looking for a way to work in more vegetarian meals into our schedule, so I did.  It was wonderful, simple, cheap, and filling, and it now has a regular rotation in our repertoire.  It is particularly welcome on a cold winter night.

Try it out, even if you think it sounds boring…you may be surprised!

Ingredients: (Once again, my “about” should be put in front of every ingredient, as I’ve long since stopped following recipes)

  • Olive oil or butter
  • 1 cup finely diced onions
  • 3 or 4 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped carrots (I usually use a few more)
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsnips (optional)
  • 4ish quarts of stock (we use veggie)
  • 1 bag brown lentils (or about 12 ounces if you buy in bulk), picked over for stones carefully
  • 2-3 cups of corn kernels
  • salt, pepper, bay leaves

1.  In a large heavy-bottomed stock pot, heat 2 or 3 tablespoons of oil or butter until it shimmers over medium heat

2. Saute onions, garlic, and celery until slightly soft and translucent (about 5 minutes)

3.  Stir in carrots and parsnips and saute for a couple of minutes until they begin to brighten.

4.  Pour in about 3 quarts of stock (reserve one…you may not even need it) and bring to a simmer*.

5.  Once the stock is simmering rapidly, add in the lentils and stir well.  Bring back to a boil, turn  heat down, cover and simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes stirring occasionally.  Sometimes this will take longer, depending on the lentils, but begin to test them about 30 minutes in.  I’ve had it take as long as 45 minutes.  When you first begin to check them for doneness, you may need to add more liquid.  If it is looking too thick and the lentils are still  firm, add a few more cups and continue to cook as needed.

6.  Once the lentils are tender, stir in the corn and bring back to a simmer.  If you corn is raw, boil for a few minutes.  We use straight-out-of-the-freezer corn, which has already been steamed, so I just heat it though and then it is ready to go!

*If you like your soup to be more stewy and thick, add some cracked lentils first and cook for a few minutes before you add the whole ones.  I can buy cracked red lentils at my local Whole Foods, which cook in a matter of minutes and essentially disintegrate into the soup, making it thick and hearty.

This soup is wonderful served with buttermilk cornbread or biscuits, which almost always accompany ours.   It may not be the prettiest of foods, but it is delicious.  This recipe makes an awful lot of soup…maybe around 5 or 6 quarts?  It freezes beautifully, too, though it is best to let it thaw in the refrigerator than on the stove.

I hope y’all will try this recipe out!

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Last night when Pete picked me up at the train station he told me that the woman who runs our CSA had called.  She asked him if we could come over and talk to her about a few things that needed fixing up around the farm.  She told him “Tell Taylor I’ve got some leeks for her!”  Boy does she ever know how to make me come running.

I’m having a love affair with Leeks.  I only discovered them a few years ago and this year I’ve really fallen for them.  They have the mildest, creamiest onion flavor that I just adore and they are delicious in everything I’ve ever put them in- soups, casseroles, quiches.  Really, they can be use anywhere an onion can be used.  Bonus points for the fact that they are essentially the Welsh national vegetable, and I have a similar love affair with Wales. 

So we came home from the farm last night a few leeks (and green tomatoes, Amish Paste tomatoes, and Acorn Squash) richer.  I had a few potatoes from the farmer’s market in my pantry, a few carrots from the garden in my fridge that I needed to use, and a few pieces of leftover pot roast from this weekend that were too small to be used for much, so I thought a soup was in order.  I just kind of made it up as I went along, and it turned out to be one of the best soups I’ve ever had.  I did have the forethought to write down the ingredients, so here you go:

Ingredients: (And these are pretty fluid.  I have a tendency to just toss things in without really measuring them, so read all of these with an “about” in the front of them)

2 Tbsp Butter (I used homemade)

2 Tbsp Olive Oil (obviously not homemade)

2-3 Medium leeks, chopped- about 3 cups (from our CSA)

2 cups diced carrots (from our garden)

2 large cloves minced garlic (from the farmer’s market)

5 small potatoes, diced- about 4-5 cups (from the farmer’s market)

6 cups of liquid- any type of broth, stock or water (we used 4 cups of chicken stock that was left in our pantry from the past winter- but it was organic, I swear!- and 2.5 cups of beef stock.  Except that it wasn’t really beef stock.  I used the liquid from the pot roast we made and watered it down a little bit.  It was extrememly rich, which probably accounts for how substantial the soup seemed)

1.5 cups of shredded left over roast, or any other type of meat (Now this wasn’t quite local, but it was certainly sustainably grown.  It came from the cow my parents raised last year.  I brought home the roast on the airplane last time I was in Alabama.  And she was certainly free-range.  Somehow she escaped the field she lived in and was missing for about two weeks.  Daddy actually went to the police station to file a missing cow report!  That the officer didn’t even blink should be an indication of how rural the town my parents live in is.   One day she just showed back up- about 40 lbs lighter and with sticks and brambles all in her hair and tail.  When they opened the gate to try and herd her back in, she ran gleefully back into the confines of the fence.  I guess she was glad to be home.)

1 Tbsp floured butter (butter kneaded with about 2 Tbsp of flour)

_____________________________

1.  Chop the leeks into small pieces.  Dice the carrots.

2.  In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and butter until it begins to bubble over medium  heat.  Toss in the leeks and garlic.  Saute, stiring frequently, until the leeks begin to wilt and brown slightly.  Add the carrots and continue to saute about five minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.  Add the potatoes to the pot and stir to combine.  Continue cooking until potatoes begin to slightly soften, about 10 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

4.  Add liquids to the pot and bring to a heavy simmer.  Cover and cook until potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.   Once potatoes are soft, mash a few of them into the soup (I just smushed them against the side of the pot with the spoon).

5.  Stir in beef to heat.

6.  Add floured butter in pieces while stirring constantly.  Bring soup back to a boil.  This will thicken the broth.  If you would like to thicken it further, dip a small about of broth into a seperate bowl and mix in 1-2 Tbsp of flour until it is disolved into the liquid.  Add back to the soup pot.  You can adjust this to your liking.  Season to taste.

7.  All Done!  Enjoy!

 

I made enough that we were able to freeze most of it- about 10-12 cups, probably.  I will be divine served over rice or quinoa, which will help stretch it.  I was really pleased that we managed to make it almost totally from local ingredients (with the exception of the oil, chicken stock, flour, salt and pepper.  And the beef if you’re being picky!) 

If y’all find yourselves with some leeks, I hope you try the recipe out.

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