Week 12 - Sometimes it's all about the sauce

[Posted by Ruth]

Have you ever made a sauce you liked so much that you had to fight the urge to run through your neighborhood wielding  a spoonful of it and shouting, "Try this sauce; it'll change your life!"?  I came pretty close last night.  We got a bag of bright green, crisp, fresh green beans in our farm share box on Thursday and I wanted to do something special with them that would make them a meal we could take to the Levitt Pavillion last night.  I found a creamy nut sauce recipe in Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" but it called for a cup of heavy cream and 4 T of butter which was way too heavy for my taste (and my thighs).  I lightened it up a bit, made a few tweaks and ended up with a sauce that I think I'd like to put on everything.  It was subtle and lush.  Put over the beans and finished in the oven for a quick gratin, it worked well for us as a main course and will also serve as a hearty side dish to a simple meal with chicken or fish.

Green Bean Gratin with Creamy Nut Sauce

Creamy Nut Sauce

2/3 cup whole, unblanched almonds
1/3 cup walnuts
3 T butter
1 cup skim milk (more or less for desired consistency)
Salt, pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg
Optional: 1 tsp of instant blending (Wondra) flour

Combine the almonds and walnuts in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.  Add 2 T of the softened butter to the nuts and continue to process until the mixture forms a paste that is as smooth as possible.

Melt the remaining butter in a small, nonstick, pan, add the nut mixture and cook over low to low/med heat, stirring constantly as if you were making a flour/butter roux.  Cook like this for a few minutes, until the nuts are fragrant which means they have browned slightly.  Gradually whisk in the milk and heat to the point of a gentle simmer.  Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.  At this point, if you want a thicker sauce you can sprinkle in the Wondra flour and whisk for a few minutes while simmering until it reaches the consistency you want.  Note: if you are using the sauce for the gratin below, it will thicken a bit more upon baking.

Green Bean Gratin

3/4 lb fresh green beans, ends nipped off, cut in 1/2 if very long
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T minced onion
Butter or olive oil for pan

1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Creamy nut sauce, recipe above

Preheat oven to 400.  Have a baking dish that will fit the beans ready -no need to grease it.

Heat oil or butter in pan and gently saute garlic and onion until fragrant and beginning to be translucent.  Add the beans, stir to coat with oil and continue cooking a few minutes.  Turn heat to low, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the beans are tender/crisp.

Toss the beans with the nut sauce, place in baking dish and top with the Parmesan cheese.  Bake uncovered for 15 minutes, until mixture bubbles and the cheese has browned a bit on top.  Serve hot from the oven, or at room temperature.

The mixture of almonds and walnuts in the sauce was a happy accident.  I had two small partial bags of nuts I wanted to use up so I combined the two.  They both added a different note to the sauce and it's definitely worth having them both on hand.

Here, by the way, is this week's haul.  We have our first cantaloupe.  Stacia from Stone Gardens Farm wanted to know how we all liked the cantaloupe and if she should grow them again next year.  Our vote is YES!  The melon was perfectly ripe and delicious.



week 11 - corn

[guest blogger :: taber]

i have to agree with what ruth said in her post below, "good quality, fresh ingredients, simply prepared trump processed, over salted, 'convenience' food any day."

i will admit, i felt the pressure when i took on the farm share this week that i would need to cook up a storm in my kitchen in order to really enjoy the vegetables. one of the biggest lessons i've learned is that food, especially fresh produce, is best served and consumed when cooked simply.

the other night i was staring at the six ears of corn that came in the share wondering what the heck i could do with them. i saw that one of my favorite food blogs (thanks denise!), smitten kitchen, had posted a recipe for sweet corn pancakes. but i didn't have all of the ingredients (boo!). instead i just boiled up the corn, pulled out some delicious butter from vermont and enjoyed it the simple way, and that was my dinner (and my boyfriend's too) - two ears of the sweetest corn!

Week 11 - A vote for fresh and simple

[Posted by Ruth]
Fair warning, I'm climbing up on my soapbox.  I settled down with my coffee this morning and read in the New York Times that "The I Hate to Cook Book" by Peg Bracken is being reissued.  For those of you too young to remember, this book came out in the 1960s and all of our mothers had it.  Bracken, the precursor to Sandra Lee, advocated dumping cans of salty, condensed soups in recipes and, like Sandra Lee, using ready made, processed foods as 'shortcuts' wherever possible.  

What really annoyed me about the article was that it stated that "...the organic, locavore movement may get the most attention, many home cooks still care more about budget and convenience."  Give me a break!  Especially in this current economy, I care deeply about budget.  In fact it's what I wake up and think about at 3 a.m.  And, I'm certainly not against things being convenient.  I just don't think I have to dump a can of soup over something to achieve this.  

Now that we're half way through our CSA, I'm completely convinced that we are saving a significant amount of money and eating better.  It doesn't have to be a trade-off.  Good quality, fresh ingredients, simply prepared trump processed, over salted, 'convenience' food any day.

Oven Roasted Steak Fries
5 or 6 very fresh, medium potatoes
olive oil to coat
salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 400
Scrub potatoes but leave the peels on.  Cut them in half lengthwise and then cut each half into 4 thick steak fries.
Place in baking pan (a heavy jelly roll pan is great here) and toss with plenty of olive oil.  The potatoes should be well coated and there should be some extra oil in the pan.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper, turn slices over and sprinkle other side with salt as well.
Roast for 20 minutes.
Turn slices over and roast for another 20 minutes or until nicely browned.

That's it.  No cans to open, no unpronounceable chemicals, little or no work on my part.  We had them with some grilled eggplant and some chicken. Because they were so very fresh, the potatoes were absolutely delicious.  Seemed pretty convenient to me.


week 11 - the newbie

[guest blogger :: taber]

hello a tale of two farm share followers! this is taber, from cafe taber, guest blogging on behalf of denise this week. she so graciously gave me her farm share this week and asked me to blog about my experiences with all of these crazy vegetables! well, only some of them are crazy. dandelion greens?!?!?

i'm new at this whole farm share thing. i've heard of the concept, but i've never taken part in one before. so this is exciting for me as well as a little nerve wracking since i haven't really cooked in while. i'm up for the challenge though!

saturday morning, after i unpacked all of the vegetables from the pick-up, i was amazed at both the quantity of the vegetables and the quality! knowing that i will be cooking and eating some of the freshest produce over the next few days got me super excited because being a vegetarian i LOVE my veggies!

i have a few recipes in mind for the summer squash and the tomatoes. i'm not quite sure what to do with the beets or the dandelion greens. ruth suggested i use the kale to make kale chips! yummy! and my friend monica suggested i use some of the corn for some chowda! so i'll be sharing the results of my adventures with these vegetables with you right here over the next week. so please check back! and if you have any suggestions on how i should cook a certain vegetable, please post your thoughts in the comment area below.

until then...i must get cookin'!