Monday, July 27, 2009

How do you use it up?

A big "problem" that locavores, farmers, gardeners, and lovers of fresh food face every year about this time is: how can you possibly use all this stuff that's ripe right now?

I thought this was a great post to bring out reader participation. Everyone has a favorite way to use up corn, tomatoes, green peppers, blueberries. Later, I'll make a new post with everyone's suggestions, sorted out by food. Be sure to link to recipes, if you have a favorite one handy!

And... go!!!

Fresh Corn Pudding

Another item that we had an overabundance of was corn. Matt had bought some at the farm stand with the peaches; then his ex-mother-in-law passed him some more. Finally, I got some at the farmer’s market for Fawn’s sleepover, and we hadn’t used all of it.

I think a lot of people just eat corn on the cob when it comes to fresh corn, and use frozen the rest of the time. I grew up on a farm though, where we grew our own and had to do something with it, something more than just the occasional ear with your barbecue. Let me tell you – there are a lot of delicious ways to enjoy good, fresh corn off the cob.

The other day I suddenly remembered that corn pudding (the eggy sort, not the corn meal type) is best made with fresh or canned corn, because frozen floats on the surface and leaves a lot of empty eggy stuff at the base of the casserole. And here I was with a surplus of fresh corn. Joy!

I was able to find a great fresh corn recipe over at allrecipes. As I’ve mentioned before, the best thing about that site is the rating system; everything can be sorted according to the average “star” rating it receives, and the ratings generally come with brief reviews describing the user’s experience with the recipe, what they did differently, and what they’d change in the future.

This was very helpful in this case, since there were complaints of greasiness from too much butter, a shortage of corn in the recipe, and too much salt. I adjusted my attempt accordingly and got a great result – we had it as an entrée, and the casserole dish was cleaned out. I had been sure the children (and Matt, also a picky eater) would fight me on it. You learn something new every day.

I didn’t use whole wheat flour in this attempt; I’ll try it out at a later date, but I doubt I’ll ever use all whole wheat; this needs a fairly light texture.

Fresh Corn Pudding

2 Tablespoons butter
1 egg, beaten
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
ground black pepper to taste
1 cup milk
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups fresh corn

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place butter in a 9 inch square baking pan and set in oven to melt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, salt, sugar, pepper, milk and flour. When mixture is smooth, stir in corn. Remove pan from oven when butter is melted. Pour butter into corn mixture and stir well. Pour corn mixture into baking pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until set in center and golden brown on top.

Not local today: butter, salt and pepper, sugar, flour.

Whole Wheat Cobbler

So, apart from being a pie-making fool at Fawn’s, I’ve been a cobbler-making one, too. I’ve tried a few different recipes, but the latest is probably the one I’ll stick with. It’s absurdly easy, tasty, and is delicious even if you make it with completely whole wheat flour.

The first time, I made it with blueberries, but one day Matt came home with a bunch of New York peaches, I think perhaps forgetting that we had a big bowl of peaches, plums, and bananas on the counter. (Yes, bananas. None of the fruit was local. Le sigh.) Fawn was hosting a sleepover to mark Emma’s departure from her home, and it seemed like a good time to use up some of those peaches.

I essentially made this recipe with somewhat less sugar and all whole wheat flour. The wheat flavor definitely comes through, but it tastes really delicious against the tart and sweet fruit, and makes a not-overpoweringly-sweet accompaniment to some ice cream.

Whole Wheat Cobbler

4 tablespoons butter
¾ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk

2 cups of fruit
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put butter in an 8-inch square or 9-inch round pan; set in oven to melt. When butter has melted, remove pan from oven.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Add milk; whisk to form a smooth batter. Pour batter into pan, then scatter fruit over batter. Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tb. of sugar. (Depending on the fruit, I might sprinkle some spices at this point, too; I skipped that with blueberries, but sprinkled some nutmeg and cinnamon on the peach one.)

Bake until batter browns and fruit bubbles, 50 to 60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream or a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Not local today: everything but the fruit.

Friday, July 24, 2009

75th Post!!! Celebratory Pie

So I heard on Tuesday that Matt and I can sign a lease on a duplex next Thursday! There aren’t enough words to explain what a relief this is to me. I know what school district my daughter will be going to in the fall. I know how much space I have, how it’s laid out, and how much my rent will be. I know I have landlords who struck me as really nice and fairly dedicated to the property – it’s been in the family for decades.

Best of all, they have a garden out back, and it’s perfectly okay for us to have one, too. Next summer is going to be grand.

I’ve been a pie-baking fool since I landed on Fawn’s doorstep. It’s just happened that I've been there while all kinds of berries and things have come into season, and the biggest method I’m familiar with for using them up is dessert. Personally, I’m very, very partial to pie.

On Monday night of this week I made a mixed-fruit pie that was based on this blueberry pie recipe; I just took out two cups of blueberries and added a half-cup of gooseberries and a cup and a half of pitted sour cherries. Instead of a lattice crust, I put on a streusel-type topping which was left over from making these muffins.

I hadn’t been able to decide whether blueberries or apples were the best base for such a pie, so I’d fully expected to bake an apple-based crumbly pie later in the week. But when I got the news about the duplex, I couldn’t resist baking it up right that minute.

Well, I nearly resisted. There were obstacles. We had to clean the pie plate from the other pie. That doesn't sound like much, but I can be a slacker of the highest order. Fawn said she’d wash it and I pointed out, “You know we shouldn’t be eating this much pie.” She was equal to that. She said, “But now there are only two weeks of pie left!” So we did it.

Bowman Orchards has early apples out – something called “July Reds” that taste similar to a MacIntosh or an Empire. I’d picked them up at the farmer’s market, but between snacking and the fact that one wasn’t good, we only had one apple left. And it was small. We wound up with basically a blueberry-based pie, after all. But it was yummy!

I improvised my attempt on this blueberry pie, this apple pie, and the topping from these muffins. At a later date I think it would be really great to get some granulated maple sugar – you can get it at the co-op – to use for the topping. At the very least, I’d rather use brown sugar in the future.

Celebration Pie

One pie shell
¼ cup gooseberries, stems removed and cut into quarters
½ cup apples, diced
1 ½ cups sour cherries, pitted
2 cups blueberries
¾ cup of white sugar
3 Tablespoons whole wheat flour

½ cup white sugar
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ cup butter
¼ chopped pecans

Mix fruit, sugar, and flour together; pour into pie shell.

Blend sugar, flour, and cinnamon and cut into butter with a fork or pastry blender; mix in pecans. Sprinkle over top of pie.

Cover and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes; uncover and bake for 25 more minutes, or until crust appears done. Enjoy!

Not local today: pecans, butter, spices, flour, sugar, pie crust (I am a supreme slacker)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


So, the cauliflower thing so did not turn out well. Not at all. So I'll just skip posting what I did here, since no one would care to repeat it I'm sure!

Roast Chicken with Fresh Herbs, Roast Baby Squash, and Scalloped Cauliflower

That's dinner tonight; yum.

Now that Matt's got an oven that works, we may as well use it; and I'll go back to my usual practice of filling it up (or at least cooking several items at once) to conserve energy.

Tonight I'm roasting a chicken from Brookside with a bunch of Bowman rosemary, a sprig of Kilpatrick basil, and a big fistful of Kilpatrick garlic scapes in the cavity. I just sprinkled salt, a small amount of pepper, and poultry seasoning on the outside; Matt's daughter doesn't like things too spicy, and she'll be here to eat tonight.

On the side, I'm roasting the baby squash, and I thought to make the cauliflower au gratin, but remembered halfway through it that I'm out of any cheese except ricotta and Parmesan. I ended up with a sort of hybrid dish that I hope tastes yummy. (Will update!)

Meanwhile, I'll post the makings of the roasted baby squash, which I'm more confident will turn out, here:

Roasted Baby Squash

Baby squash, in any quantity (I had about 6)
Parmesan cheese
Cooking oil

Grease a baking pan; slice the baby squash in half lengthwise so they lay flat in the pan. Spray or drizzle oil over the top and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste; generously sprinkle with Parmesan, too.

Roast at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes; enjoy.

Romano cheese is also really excellent over roasted vegetables. It's also tasty to dice an onion or shallot, or mince some garlic to toss with them, or sprinkle with some bouillion powder if you have some and don't mind processed foods. They are good without any cheese at all, too, though I prefer the extra flavor myself.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Up to muffins now...

I really need to learn to like raw blueberries. I can't explain why, but I just don't; and they're coming in in such large numbers now at J's that I really wish I liked them that way. Because now, I've started baking them into everything. Everything that is full of fat and sugar and other things that are no good for you.

I'd already made a peach buckle, a black-cap buckle, and two blueberry pies. In almost all cases I ate more of them than just about everyone else. So not good for the arteries or the waistline.

Last night I was watching Fawn's kids with Matt and I asked him to go out and pick berries at J's. I don't think she has any specific deal set up to sell them yet or anything, but I can't stand the idea of them sitting back there, uneaten by anyone but the birds. They could be frozen! Or canned! Or dried! Or something. Anything. So I get back there (or send Matt) when I have the chance.

I felt like some muffins, so I turned to my old standby, allrecipes. I really prefer plain, cakey muffins, but there was a crumb-topped recipe that got four and a half stars based on over 3,000 reviews, so I knew I had to try it.

They're-Actually-Ripe-Now Blueberry Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.

Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Place oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.

To Make Crumb Topping: Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.

I actually found that this made twice as much crumb topping as we needed; I refrigerated the other half for a future batch. Reviews said that this recipe is good with all kinds of fruit, and I think it'll be a great one come apple season. (Which is starting already - Bowman had some early apples out this past weekend!)

Not local today: pretty much everything but the blueberries. So worth it, though.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fresh Broccoli Frittata

So, we came home with an overabundance of produce this weekend. Maybe not overabundance - there's a good chance we'll actually use it all - but it certainly feels like it at the beginning of the week.

On Saturday, corn was the obvious choice, since it goes starchy so quickly. But the broccoli has started to come out now, too, and that means something other than spinach for a frittata, for the first time in a long time. (We started making an asparagus frittata once, but that still seems like such a special, rare vegetable to me that I couldn't stand burying it in eggs. We ate them right after the sautee stage.)

This frittata came out super-yummy. It had a little more moisture than I'd like, though, so I think I'll cut back the milk the next time.

Broccoli Frittata

Olive oil
4 cups of chopped fresh broccoli (about two small heads)
5 or 6 baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 small bunch of basil, chopped (this was around 10 or so leaves)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup of milk
3/4 cup of ricotta
¼ cup of shredded mozzarella
2 Tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
5 eggs, beaten

Sauté broccoli, carrot, basil, and garlic in a good drizzle of oil until dark and somewhat tender. Add milk to cool it somewhat; blend in cheeses and then eggs.

Pour into a greased pan (you need a big one for this one – no pie plates!); sprinkle with some extra cheese for pretties.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until firm.

Not local today: oil, mushrooms, carrot, garlic, Parmesan.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sheldon Corn Chowder

Matt had himself a new stove delivered this afternoon while he was out at a carnival with our girls. As you might remember from our ricotta adventure, his oven had a heating element broken. Seems as how it'd cost "more than the old stove is worth" to replace the heating element, so a whole new one was purchased. Isn't that just the way these days? I hope the old one gets recycled.

Anyway, I'm not testing the oven out right yet, but I am using the stove top. For the first time ever, I find myself actually feeling bad about making a mess on the stove. I'm such a messy cook, but I'm usually pretty comfortable with that.

I spent some time this afternoon turning this morning's corn on the cob into this evening's chowder. Here's how I made it.

Sheldon Corn Chowder

2 Tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, diced (mine came to about 3/8 cup)
2 Tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups diced new potatoes (no scale in my kitchen anymore)
2 medium carrots, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 quart milk
2 cups corn off the cob (took me about 5 ears)
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, melt the butter; sautee shallots in it until soft and translucent. Stir in flour and then milk, and keep on low heat until the milk begins to heat up and thicken.

In a medium saucepan, while the milk heats, boil the carrots and potatoes till tender. Drain.

Once the milk has gotten fairly hot, add the corn to cook while the milk finishes thickening. When it seems done, add in the potatoes, carrots, salt and pepper. Enjoy!

July is Bustin' Out All Over!

So much new stuff at the farmer's market today, we didn't even know where to turn. Broccoli is out, new potatoes and carrots, corn. Alongside the still-fairly-new cherries, blueberries, summer squash, cucumbers, and so forth, it's hard to know where to begin.

We definitely got some broccoli, which we can throw in a tasty tasty frittata, and some corn. It's chowder for dinner tonight. The Kilpatrick share came with a bag of basil and a head of lettuce today, and we got some peas (though not as many as last week!) as well. We got baby squash, fully-grown yellow squash, new potatoes, cucumbers, and green beans.

I make a fairly light corn chowder without a lot of thickening. It'll have lots of good Battenkill milk, Sheldon corn, and shallots from Kilpatrick.

We had a similar if less diverse haul from the market last week, and we've spent all week at Fawn's eating a giant load of peas and squash. We've steamed it, sauteed it, and the other night, Fawn sauteed it with baby portabello mushrooms and shallots. Awesome.

Black-caps have still been coming in, and I've just been letting the kids snack on them. Baking them into desserts makes more interesting blogging, but less nutritional sense. We tried blueberry picking with all of the kids, but found that a) the blueberries aren't quite ready on any large scale yet, and b) some of the children liked it much better than others. My two-year-old tried to insist on being carried, and wound up sitting on the ground wailing most of the time.

My daughter Emma and J's eight-year-old son, though, were practically unstoppable. We actually had a hard time getting them back out of there. So, next time, we'll bring some and leave others behind. I think it's gonna be a pretty good time.

Battenkill Rice Pudding

When I heated up some prefab stir fry at Fawn's (F's actual name) the other night, I made extra rice and vegetables to stretch it out. We ended up with just enough leftover rice to make my favorite rice pudding from I like it because you make it on a stove top, so it comes out more like the kheer rice pudding you get at the Indian buffets.

I use allrecipes a lot, by the way, and most of what I post here are altered recipes from the site. Users rate all the recipes, so you can get an idea of what you're working with before you even start. People post reviews with their ratings, where you can find a lot of suggestions for making it better than the original recipe; I often use them to yield the best results.

At Fawn's we had a houseful of Battenkill cream top milk, and Matt brought over the heavy cream left over from the previous weekend. I don't think anything apart from the milk and cream were local, but it's still a yummy recipe and a great way to use your dairy products, so I decided to post it here.

Creamy Rice Pudding from Allrecipes

1 1/2 cups cooked rice
2 cups milk, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine rice, 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Blend egg with remaining 1/2 cup milk; stir into rice mixture. Cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and vanilla. Serve warm.

I whipped plain cream for the top; it didn't need any more sugar. The recipe on the original site mentions sprinkling it with nutmeg or cinnamon for a little extra "oomph." That sounds fantastic, but I had such a craving that I forgot to do it. I was in too much of a hurry to get the stuff out of the pan and into my mouth. It didn't even last till dinner the next day.

Not local today: Everything but the milk and cream.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I'm cooking again!

It's nice to put the move behind me for a little while and get back to the things I like doing, like cooking. F is a working mom and sure likes not having to cook when she comes home. (Note: she likes cooking. She doesn't like having to cook when she's already overtired.)

Tonight we had macaroni and cheese (not at all local), peas from my Kilpatrick share, cauliflower that I bought at the market but suspect isn't local, and home-grown salad from my old front yard.

Speaking of things I suspect aren't local, apparently Buhrmaster has a history of being less-than-honest about where the produce they sell comes from. I think that in my case, the salesperson simply didn't know where the fruit was from, and didn't realize how important that might be - but nonetheless, I know that whatever I get there has a risk of not being local. I'm hunting around for another farmstand in case of other missed farmer's markets.

But for this week, I've been able to stock up at the farmer's market as I've become accustomed. It felt strange to've been gone so long - we missed two weeks - and worse, some vendors had been shifted around, adding to the effect. But I got milk from Battenkill!!! Yellow squash from the Sheldons! Almost more peas than I could carry! And Bowman Orchards had cherries out! Good times.

Meanwhile, early summer is in full bloom. The roadsides and fields are full of blue vetch, clover, and daisies; the black-caps are coming out by the ton; and now, J's blueberries are just starting to come in.

It's so hard to wait for them to be ripe. More to the point, as kind of a n00b in the blueberry picking department, it's hard for me to tell when they're ripe before they're actually in my hand - and then it's too late. Sunday's berrying left Matt and I with a bucket of slightly reddish blueberries that were very, very tart. Whoops. They were just enough to make a super-tart pie, which we had for dessert tonight.

Fresh-Picked Under-Ripe Blueberry Pie

3/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups fresh blueberries
1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cinnamon, and sprinkle over blueberries.

Line pie dish with one pie crust. Pour berry mixture into the crust, and dot with butter. Cut remaining pastry into 1/2 - 3/4 inch wide strips, and make lattice top. Crimp and flute edges.

Bake pie on lower shelf of oven for about 50 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

I am a slacker, and therefore I didn't bother with a lattice crust. I just slapped a whole crust on top of that bad boy. I also used store-bought crust. I know, I know. I'm juggling a lot of things over here, though; the time for homemade pie crusts has passed. Once I'm settled into a permanent abode or perhaps just feeling more ambitious, I'll make some crusts from scratch. Until then, Pillsbury all the way!

I have some more cooking adventures coming up soon. We have enough black-caps that we could make another pie, or who knows what? We did just eat pie. I bought some gooseberries at the farmer's market, and I think I'm likely to make a crumble out of them. Not enough for a pie, don't feel like pureeing it into a fool.

I also have lots of squash I've bought, and while most everything in our garden has gone the way of the bunny, the tomatoes survived and the flowers are forming fruit on some of the plants. Oh, I hope some of them live!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Did I say I'd have *more* time to blog soon?

Oh, my, what a fool I can be sometimes.

It's funny, because I'm having quite a few local food adventures - mulberry pancakes and mulberry/peach buckle, nasturtiums and day lilies, and now the black-caps are out - but not enough clear-headed time to write. Well, it'll come eventually.

Anyway, I am all moved in at F's house. It's pretty wild over here. J has three children across the street, 8, 5, and 3, I think. F has two, 6 and 3. Now there are also my two, 6 and 2, and sometimes Matt's daughter, who's 8. That's a possibility of up to eight kids around at any given time - and believe me, it's happened once or twice.

So far in local eating together, we've had the peach/mulberry buckle one night, and the next day the kids snacked on blueberries, black-caps, and (not local) strawberries. The big challenge here is the sheer quantity of food we go through, with all the kids home for the summer and anywhere from four to eight of 'em around at any given time. We've been eating a lot of non-local stuff, and given the scale of eating over here, I'm pretty much expecting that to continue for as long as we're here. That's okay - you can only do what you can do, right?

Today I told myself that, rain or not, I was going out for some black-caps. There were a huge mess of them where we walk the kids through to send the oldest three to their summer rec program every day, and the kids all got to pickin' 'em. Even with all we ate on the spot, after a few minutes we had a good cup and a half or so, and they made up part of the afternoon's snack. I knew they were out there, getting overripe, and I couldn't stand it.

So today, while my daughter was at the rec program, I took my son out foraging. None of the black-caps in the woods were ripe yet; J and I think it's because they're more shaded than the other, super-ripe bushes we've spotted around. I went ahead and broke the don't-forage-at-the-roadside rule on this one; berries are too damned tasty not to.

I managed to get enough to make another buckle - black-cap this time. I also threw in some blueberries; one, exactly one of J's blueberry bushes is putting out ripe fruit. I probably didn't get any more than a half-cup off the thing, but I couldn't just leave them there. Into the dessert they go!

Double-Berry Buckle

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

2 1/2 cups black-caps (black raspberries)
1/2 cup blueberries
3/8 cup white sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C.) Grease a 9 inch square pan.

Blend batter ingredients in a large bowl. Spread into the prepared pan.

In a large bowl, combine filling ingredients. Pour over the batter in the pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes.