Saturday, November 28, 2009

In the Garden: End of November 2009

As the weather cleared and warmed up this afternoon, I went out and pulled up the 8 basil plants. They were dropping their leaves and the stalks were turning brown. Time to go!

The three tomato plants were also pulled up and I was able to harvest the last 5 tomatoes that were not chewed up by raccoons. Cutting back the tomatoes will provide some welcome sunlight to the romaine lettuce I planted a few weeks ago. They managed to take despite being in the shadow of the tomato plants. Now that they are established, I think they will welcome the sun.

With both the basil and tomato plants out, there was a fair amount of open real estate in the beds. I took the opportunity to work in some organic fertilizer into the soil in these areas.
I will look for some more fall crops to add.

The bell pepper plant is still producing and I harvested two peppers today with more still growing!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Leek Confit

Whenever leeks are in the box, the obvious choices come to mind: soup stock or leek and potato soup. While both are excellent choices, there are times when you don't have the ingredients, time, or inclination. Two leeks were sitting in the fridge from last week's box and they were starting to look a little tired. Then I came across this article in Bon Appetit which helped me see new possibilities for the leeks.

This morning I adapted the recipe that comes with the article for Leek Confit. The end product is something so simple, tasty, and adaptable to a variety of uses. As the article says:
Serve warm with fillets of salmon, in scrambled eggs or pasta, or on crostini with goat cheese.

I used a good portion (along with some sauteed arugula) in this morning's scrambled eggs (Yum!). The remainder will be added to tonight's flatbread pizzas.

Leek Confit
  • 2 leeks, green stalks cut off using only white and pale green parts, cleaned, cut lengthwise, and then thinly sliced
  • butter, 2-3 tablespoons
  • salt, no more than 1/4 teaspoon
  • water
  • Melt butter in a medium skillet
  • Add leeks and stir to coat. I gave them some time to soften in the butter stirring often
  • Add water and salt. I didn't measure the water. I just added enough to cover less than half of the bottom of the skillet
  • Cover pot and reduce heat if needed
  • Simmer until leeks are soft stirring often
  • Uncover and continue to cook until remaining water evaporates
Can be chilled in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Also explore:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In the Garden: November 2009

I picked the last of the green leaves from the dying basil plant. It's amazing that it's the middle of November and I'm making yet another batch of pesto for the freezer from just-picked basil. I think I will pull up the basil next weekend. They were put into the ground seven months ago and my goal was to have enough in the freezer to not need to buy pesto in the store.

Fall Garden

Following the advice from my local nursery, I decided to try my hand at a fall garden. Last weekend, I planted more lettuce (romaine) and sugar peas.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Azteca Squash Soup

I was paging through an old Bon App that was sitting around and a recipe caught my eye.

As I read I thought, I had bell peppers, limes, tomatoes, and jalapeno peppers from the backyard. I had a butternut squash sitting in the pantry. I had cilantro from the box in the fridge. I had some avocado that needed to be used. I had leftover non-fat sour cream in the fridge. It was a perfect storm of ingredients for this recipe. The recipe was from the
Rancho La Puerta resort in Mexico. I have two of their cookbooks and I could not locate this recipe in either cookbook. We decided that this adaptation was a keeper. Start early because it takes awhile to do the first few steps but later things can slow down and wait.

Azteca Squash Soup

  • 1 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, diced
  • 1 cup celery, chopped (about 1 stalk)
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups of broth
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced
  • juice of half a lime
  • cilantro leaves, chopped tomato, diced avocado, non-fat sour cream for garnish
  • Early in the day or the day before:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Cut the butternut squash in half and clean out
  • Spray nonstick spray on a baking dish
  • Sprinkle cut squash with salt and pepper and lay cut side down into the baking dish
  • Roast until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours
  • When cooked, remove squash from oven and turn squash cut side up to cool
  • When cool, scoop squash into a medium bowl
  • Closer to serving time:
  • Heat oil in a large pot and add onion, cook until onion is pale golden (5-10 minutes)
  • Mix in celery, garlic, and 1 cup of broth
  • Cover and simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally, add salt and pepper to taste
  • Add butternut squash, 5 cups of broth, and cumin
  • Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes to blend flavors
  • Prior to serving:
  • Use an immersion blender to puree the mix until smooth
  • Squeeze in lime juice
  • Add black beans, corn kernels, bell peppers, and jalapeno peppers (I also added in sliced and sauteed veggie sausages)
  • Cover and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Serve into bowls and garnish with your choice of non-fat sour cream (or plain yogurt), diced tomatoes, diced avocados, cilantro leaves

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Whenever you have pumpkins you have to deal with the seeds. Normally, I find roasted pumpkin seeds too fibrous for my taste. But I found a number of sites online that recommended putting the seeds in salted water for some time which breaks down some of the woodiness of pumpkin seeds. Some recipes suggested soaking seeds overnight in salted water. Others suggested bringing the seeds to a boil in salted water for 15-20 minutes. I tried the latter with the saved seeds from the pumpkin soup recipe. The salt water does do a good job of making the seeds more palatable.

For the seasoning, I used the recipe I found online at SeriousEats for spicy roasted pumpkin seeds. It's a pretty good start. I'd like to feel more spice but at work and at home these were well received as is. There is definitely room to experiment.

Rinse the pumpkin seeds in a colander. Spread the seeds on a cookie sheet, single layer, and let dry overnight.

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds, cleaned and dried
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix seeds in a bowl with all ingredients
  • Spread on a foil-covered cookie sheet
  • Place seeds in the oven for 15 minutes
  • Remove from oven and let cool

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup

We got two pumpkins in last week's box and I adapted a good-looking recipe from the October 18 SF Chronicle newspaper for Pumpkin & Black Bean Soup. Below is my adaption of the original recipe.

  • 1 medium-sized sugar pumpkin
  • broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of herbs (original recipe calls for savory and thyme. I used Penzey's Bouquet Garni)
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons which I followed but we thought it was too salty)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • black pepper, to taste
  • cilantro leaves, about 5 per soup bowl
  • 1 tablespoon low fat sour cream
  • 1 small red bell or gypsy pepper, diced
  • Roast the pumpkin. Here is a picturesque site that is helpful on how to cut and clean the pumpkin. This can be done one or two days ahead of making the soup.
  • Heat broth in a pot and add cooked pumpkin. Use an immersion blender to puree the pumpkin and broth mixture.
  • In a large sauce pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and add onion. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Add garlic and jalapeno peppers.
  • Add black beans, herbs, black pepper, and salt and stir to mix
  • Pour in pumpkin stock mix
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with sour cream, diced red peppers, and cilantro leaves
We found that the cilantro really adds a great counterpoint to the recipe so don't skip this step.