Sunday, June 28, 2009

One Local Summer Week 4

Samplings from week 4 meals :

Squash sauteed with garlic scapes

2 summer squash or zucchini, sliced
1 garlic scaped, chopped
olive oil

Warm olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add squash and scapes. Saute until squash is browned, then turn over and continue to cook until all or most of the pieces are browned. Add salt (fleur de sel preferably) and pepper to taste just before serving. A pinch of pepperoncino is great too!

Boiled Lobsters

Fill a large stockpot with enough water to cover your lobsters and bring to a boil (feel free to use sea water if you have access to it!). Add a handful of water to the pot, and plunge the lobsters into the water (head first!). Bring the water back to a boil, and then begin timing the cooking according to their weight; 8 minutes for the first pound, 3 minutes per pound thereafter. When they are done cooking, pull them out and allow them to rest on a platter. Serve with melted butter, but great fresh lobsters don't really need anything!

Local cheeseburger (from Savage Road Farm), with Cabot Cheddar and a tomato from the Exeter Farmers' Market.

Homemade Cheese Ravioli (Serves 4)

Fresh pasta dough, rolled out into thin sheets (made from 3 eggs and 3 cups flour)
8 oz. fresh ricotta (ours was homemade from local raw milk) - this needs to be of great quality,
really smooth and creamy!
2 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley
3 oz grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg yolk
Pinch of nutmeg

Combine the filling ingredients (parsley, cheeses, yolk and nutmeg) in a mixing bowl. Mix well and set aside.

Lay out two sheets of pasta side by side. Have a small cup or bowl of water nearby to help seal the pasta. Lay a tea towel onto a tray our cookie sheet and sprinkle with flour; you will need this ready when you finish cutting the ravioli. Scoop one tablespoon of the filling onto one of the pasta sheets. Continue to add the filling to the past at 1/2 inch intervals until the sheet is filled.

With your finger, take the water and outline the scoops of the filling, like you are painting the pasta. Lift the other sheet on top of the pasta and ravioli filling. Carefully press down, starting close to the filling, so you can press out as much air as possible.

Using a pastry or pasta roller, cut the ravioli into squares or circles.

Try to cut as close to the filling, without leaving too much extra pasta around the edges. The edges don't cook as quickly as the rest of the raviolo, and tend to be a bit firm. For the round ravioli (which I prefer, in order to avoid the thick edges and get more filling with every bite!) I used a large coffee scoop to imprint an outline before cutting with the roller. I'd love to find a mini cookie cutter to use from now on though!

Place the finished ravioli on the tea towel, and continue the process until you have used all of the filling. Most times you will have some pasta dough left over, which can be cut and dried to be used later. It does not save well without being cut first.

If you wish, the ravioli can be frozen immediately on the tray and bagged for use at a later time. To cook the ravioli, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a good handful of salt. Add the ravioli, and when the water comes to a boil again, lower the heat so the water is just above a simmer. Cooking these in boiling water will most likely cause them to burst. Check the ravioli often, they will float to the top, so I use a spoon to push them down while they cook. The ravioli will take about 5-7 minutes to cook, but I like to test them by taking a bit from the edges. Remember, the edges will be more firm then the rest, and should be cooked al dente. Drain the ravioli as soon as they are done.

These are great served with a butter and sage (fresh from the garden!) sauce or a light tomato sauce.

Local sources:

Cabot butter
Exeter Farmers' Market
Defiant Lobster Co.
Savage Road Farm
Magic Hat Brewery - Wacko

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Taming the tomatoes

It seemed not too long ago that most of our tomatoes were not looking like they would ever grow more than a foot tall. We coaxed them a bit under the row covers longer than we first intended, but then again, this cool weather has lasted longer than we expected it to! Surprisingly enough the tomatoes have quickly grown to this state:

Slowly but surely, we're working out a system to tame these tomatoes. First, I had to get in there and prune the largest plants. Too many of them had branches and leaves on the ground, and because the stems were so heavy, much of the new growth was growing down instead of up. (I actually thought it was pretty cool that our heirlooms are the heartiest plants of the bunch.) We will be using a stake-and-trellis method, and instead of going out and buying new stakes, we decided to take some of the old branches from our burn pile. I am really loving the look of the branches, and after getting up some twine to hold up the plants I will be getting the longer branches up near the beans so that the scarlet runners can grow up instead of twisting around each other on the ground (when I hold them up, they are already about 4 feet tall!). And if that's not enough to have to catch up on, the weeds are out of control and we have a new pest to fend off around the squash and beans; black aphids. At least this time around, I won't kill the plants while trying to fight them. I'll be spraying that homemade hot pepper spray on a cloudy day.

Friday, June 19, 2009

One Local Summer Week 3

Maybe it was the rain this week, but for whatever reason, coming up with and cooking a local meal was really hard this week. By the time I even got around to cooking dinner on Thursday, I realized the short ribs we were going to be having were still frozen, and probably not going to turn out too well. And I was right. At least I cooked up some fine creamed spinach to go along with them...and some toasted locally baked multigrain bread to go along with it all didn't hurt either.

Easy creamed spinach:

1 Tablespoon bacon grease (we always save some from fried bacon and keep it in the fridge)
1 Tablespoon butter
1 pound fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup whole milk
1/8 cup sour cream
salt to taste

Wash spinach well, making sure to get out all the sand. Melt the butter and bacon grease over medium heat. Add the spinach to the pan and cover immediately so that the spinach will steam in the water still on the leaves from washing. When the spinach is cooked add the milk and sour cream. Stir well to combine, creating a sauce in the pan. Turn heat to low, and continue to cook until the sauce is to the desired thickness. Taste for salt and season as necessary (I found with the bacon fat and butter that none was needed).

As for the short ribs, they were braised in beet juice and honey. While the sweetness was nice, it would've been even better with a splash of vinegar to create a sweet and sour sauce for them.

Local ingredients:

Butter: Kate's Homemade and Vermont Butter and Cheese
Honey: Paradise Farm, Wilton, NH
Beet juice: Nashua Farmers' Market (frozen puree from last summer)
Short ribs: Savage Road Farm, Milford, NH
Milk: Fitch's Dairy Farm, Milford, NH (raw milk!)
Bacon grease: Garfield's Smokehouse, NH
Spinach: Locally Known, Maine, found at Trader Joe's in Tyngsboro, MA
Sour cream: Hood
Bread: The Good Loaf, Milford, NH

Sunday, June 14, 2009

One Local Summer Week 2

First, I have to confess I kind of cheated this week...we spent last weekend in Connecticut, so I was able to pick up a few ingredients that weren't quite ready up in our local area. I was figuring that since we were down there visiting family anyway, it wouldn't really add to our carbon footprint, but was just really a good opportunity to expand our local food zone. Right? So, I picked up some peas, spinach (I used later in the week), soda (Foxon Park, out of East Haven, made with real sugar!) and we picked some fresh strawberries from our friend's garden. As soon as I saw the peas I knew exactly what I would make this week, a spin-off of a traditional Italian dish using some locally raised pork....

Spezzatino di Maiale (adapted from Marcella Hazan's Spezzatino di Vitello recipe)

1 pound pork steak (or shoulder, anything good for braising), cut into 1 inch cubes.
1 pound peas (pre-shelling weight)
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a heavy pot or dutch oven, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. When the butter has stopped bubbling, add the shallot. Allow the shallot to cook until soft and almost browning, then add the pork. Brown the pork on all sides. Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil, then cover and turn the heat to low. The tomatoes should barely be at a simmer. Cook the meat for 1 1/2 hours. About 15 minutes before the meat finishes cooking, add the peas to the pot.

This dish is great served along side potatoes, or as more traditional in Italy, to be served after a risotto or soup dish.
Peas: Brookside Gardens, Woodbridge, CT
Pork: Savage Road Farm, Savage Rd. Milford, NH (link is a map, they have an outdoor freezer open on weekdays)
Potatoes: Maine
Gassosa Soda: Foxon Park, East Haven, CT
Salad Greens: our garden!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Late update: more planting

This is one of those updates that never actually happened. I had all intentions of adding these planting dates, but never actually did. Luckily I did add the dates to my journal so I really know when I planted these!

Red cabbage: 5/12

Beans - Scarlet Runner and Cannellini: 5/20

Cucumbers: 5/18
Super Zagross Middle Eastern Cukes: 5/19 (seeds)

Eggplant - Calliope, Ghostbuster, Little Fingers, Twinkle: 5/18

Kale - Lacinato/Nero Toscana: 5/12

Red Leaf Lettuce: 5/12

Green Peppers: 5/15, 5/18

Popcorn - Dutch Butter: 5/12, 5/19

Spinach: 5/12

Tomatoes - Plum, Jet Star, Early Girl, Black Krim, Costoluta Genovese, Green Zebra,
Mr. Stripey, Box Car Willie, Sungold, Yellow Brandywine, Juliet: 5/17

Zucchini - Cocozelle, Costata Romanesca, Black Beauty, Tondo Chiaro di Toscana: 5/19

Flowers - Nasturtium, Torch Sunflower, Marigolds, Zinnia, Cosmos: 5/17

Herbs - Basil, Oregano, Thyme: 5/17

The garden has really taken off with the recent rain and plenty of sun that we've had. Unfortunately, we have yet to put up any stakes for tomatoes, or trellises for the peas and beans. I think we are looking to build this kind of set up for the tomatoes: Stake-and-weave trellis system. We have corn growing behind our peas in hopes to use the corn as a trellis, but the peas are growing much faster than the corn right now, so I am unsure about that system actually working. I was hoping to build teepees for the beans, as I planted them in little squares in the rows in order to do that eventually.

The lettuce is growing nicely, and providing us with more than enough for salads everynight. The arugula has begun to bolt and go to seed, so it is much to spicy for eating now. I will have to try and plant more, as well as new lettuce before we finish harvesting the heads we have now. In any case, the lettuce is far more successful than in our smaller garden last year, where it bolted before we harvested any for eating.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

One Local Summer 1st week

Eating local here in New Hampshire is still a bit hard as far as fresh vegetables go, though we are harvesting more than enough salad greens to enjoy with every meal. For this week's meal I focused more on the proteins of the meal, which are available year round from local sources, right here in town. We dined on a local version of Spaghetti Carbonara, with homemade pasta made from fresh duck eggs and NH smoked bacon. Unfortunately the semolina flour was from Bob's Red Mill in Oregon, but that was the only ingredient (aside from salt and pepper) that came from far away.

Spaghetti Carbonara (New Hampshire version)

serves 4

For the spaghetti dough:

3 eggs (we used duck eggs)
2 cups semolina flour
1 cup AP flour

Create a well on a board or counter in the flour. Crack the eggs into the well, and scramble the eggs slowly using a fork. Gradually bring the flour into the eggs until the eggs become thick enough that they will not run out onto the board. Using your hands, bring in the rest of the flour (adding water if necessary) until a ball forms. Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes, until it becomes smooth. Allow the dough to rest for about 20 minutes. After resting, cut the dough into smaller pieces, about the size of a golf ball. Using a pasta machine, roll out the dough to the second to last setting on the machine. Lay out all the pieces, allowing them to dry out a bit to prevent the dough from sticking in the next step. (You may also need to flip them, or rub a bit of flour over them to help the drying) Using the thinnest noodle cutters, cut the dough and lay onto towels or on a rack to dry.

Get a pot of water to a boil on the stove.

For the carbonara:

6 slices of bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon bacon drippings or oil
2 eggs

In a skillet melt bacon drippings. Add the chopped bacon to the skillet and cook until crisp; it is better to get them quite crispy since they soften up a bit when mixed with the pasta. Begin cooking the pasta, it should only take 3-5 minutes, and will be ready when the bacon is ready. While the bacon and pasta are cooking, beat the eggs into a serving bowl, large enough to hold the pasta.

When the pasta is finished (cooked al dente) reserve a bit of the cooking water and immediately drain the pasta. Quickly add the drained pasta to the bowl, and begin tossing with two forks, which will help to cook the eggs. Add the bacon, and all the drippings from the pan to the pasta. Continue to toss the pasta for about 2 minutes, adding some of the reserved cooking water if the pasta seems dry. You will notice that when you continue to toss the pasta a creamy sauce is created right in the bowl from only a few simple ingredients.

Local sources:

eggs: Fitch's Farm, Milford, NH
bacon: Garfield's Smoked Bacon (purchased from Lull Farm)

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