Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

Hot Sauce!

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Unless otherwise noted, photos come courtesy of Kitchen Garden Farm

“We’ve always loved growing hot peppers,” Caroline Pam of Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland, Massachusetts, told me recently. “Hot peppers are essential to many cuisines around the world. They come in so many colors and flavors and heat levels that they are really fun to grow.”

In 2013, she and her husband/business partner Tim Wilcox decided to try making something different with the peppers from their organic farm. Each September they organize a spice lovers’ weekend called Chilifest. That year they added a new feature to Chilifest: their own Sriracha.

Caroline and Tim, courtesy of Jim Gipe/Pivot Media

Originating in Thailand, Sriracha is a chili sauce that has taken the country by storm in the last couple of decades. Kitchen Garden’s version is special, Caroline Pam informed me. “It has a completely different flavor when it’s made from peppers that are fresh and are fermented the way we do them,” she explained.

She is far from alone in seeing the merits of the farm’s Sriracha. In late January Kitchen Garden’s sauce won a coveted Good Food Award in the “pantry” category.

According to spokesperson Jessica Zischke, the Good Food Award program is “a national initiative to honor American craft food and drink producers for excellence in both taste and sustainability.”

“We seek to highlight businesses in all parts of the U.S. who are making products that are tasty, authentic, and responsible,” Jessica told me. This past year 2059 entries were submitted from 38 states. Only 291 products received awards.

“I hadn’t thought to enter it,” Caroline Pam said of the program. “I got an email from one of the pantry judges who wrote to me out of the blue and said, ‘I think you should enter your product.’

“We had to submit our unmarked samples in September, which for us was a little crazy! It was our first bottling day [of the year for the Sriracha], and I think it was the day before Chilifest.”

I asked about the process of making the sauce. During the harvest season, Caroline told me, the farm picks 3000 pounds of peppers each week. “We fill up our box truck with hand-picked peppers,” she explained.

The peppers are taken to the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center in Greenfield. The next day, they are washed, stemmed, and ground. The peppers then go through two stages of fermentation, a process that takes weeks.

Eventually, the pepper mixture is cooked and milled; then the pepper pulp is heated with vinegar, bottled, and sealed. The Sriracha—like the salsa Kitchen Garden Farm also produces—is shelf stable but must be refrigerated after opening.

In their first year of Sriracha production, Caroline and Tim put up 400 bottles. The following year (2014) they ended up with 4000 bottles. Their haul for this past year was 32,000 bottles from 18,000 pounds of peppers.

The sauce is sold in stores and is also available from the Kitchen Garden website, www.kitchengardenfarm.com. It is popular in restaurants throughout the northeast. “It’s fun to see how people are using it,” said Caroline.

She and her husband stagger the production of the sauce through the fall and early winter months. Picking can take place only in the warmer months, but bottling ended in the winter.

At this time of year the two farmers are still harvesting; they produce hardy greens and root vegetables in their high-tunnel greenhouses. They are also busy planning for the coming season.

Kitchen Garden was founded in 2006 “with just one acre and a rototiller,” Caroline told me. The 2017 season will be the first in which their now 50-acre farm will operate exclusively on a wholesale basis. Caroline noted that she will miss seeing customers at farmer’s markets.

“It was a really hard choice, but we’re responding to what the farming opportunities are,” she said.

Consumers will still be able to find Kitchen Garden’s range of organic produce at local markets. And the farmers will be on hand for this year’s Chilifest, scheduled for September 16 and 17.

Caroline Pam and Tim Wilcox are both passionate cooks. In fact, Caroline attended culinary school in New York City. The two use their Sriracha in a variety of dishes.
“It complements everything else that we’re growing. It’s really just so good with everything you can cook,” Caroline enthused.

I asked her for a recipe that involves the Sriracha—and she shared the noodle formula below.

“In my first apartment, when I was 18 years old, a vegetarian, and new to cooking, I made this at least twice a week,” she said. “The recipe has evolved somewhat since then, but the basic concept is the same: noodles, peanut sauce, fried tofu, and raw vegetables.

“Always fills you up. Never lets you down. And it just so happens to be the perfect vehicle for our Sriracha.”

Caroline was kind enough to send me all three types of Sriracha so I could test the recipe with my family. The classic Sriracha was our favorite—just enough heat to lend kick to the noodles. The habañero flavor was quite a bit hotter—and the VERY hot ghost pepper version offered initial sweetness followed by a little burn. I have no doubt we’ll manage to finish all three eventually!

We changed the recipe a bit to suit what we had in the house, blanching asparagus instead of broccoli and substituting leftover chicken for the tofu. (Some form of egg might also be nice.) I will definitely make this recipe again; I love peanut sauce.

Here’s what our spread looked like.

Caroline Pam’s Peanut Noodle Bowls

Ingredients:

for the main event:

1 pound pasta: whole wheat spaghetti, buckwheat soba, or udon noodles
sesame oil as needed

for the peanut sauce:

2/3 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup tahini sesame paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 fresh Thai chilies, minced, or 1 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons soy sauce, or 2 tablespoons soy and a heaping spoonful of miso paste
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 to 1 cup hot water, to thin the sauce

for the fried tofu:

1 block firm or extra-firm tofu (1 14-ounce package, drained)
1/2 cup tamari soy sauce
4 tablespoons canola or other neutral vegetable oil

for garnish (use any combination of these):

blanched broccoli florets
shredded cabbage
shredded carrots
sliced radishes
sliced cucumber
chopped scallions
chopped cilantro

for the final touch:

Kitchen Garden Farm Sriracha, drizzled to taste, based on heat tolerance (start with 1 to 2 tablespoons per person)

Instructions:

Boil the pasta until it is al dente; then drain and rinse it in cold water to stop the cooking. Toss it with a little sesame oil and set it aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients, adding hot water as necessary to achieve the texture of thick and creamy salad dressing.

For the fried tofu, cut the tofu into thin (1/4-inch) slices. Put the soy sauce in a small shallow bowl or saucer. Dip the slices on each side briefly and fry them in hot oil until crispy, turning once, as you would fry bacon. Drain on paper towels and chop coarsely into bite-sized pieces. Put the tofu in a serving dish on the table.

Toss the sauce with the noodles and serve each portion in a large bowl. (Sometimes a little extra hot water will help the sauce spread over the noodles.)

Prepare the rest of the vegetables and herbs and arrange them artfully on the table so that diners can serve themselves. Lubricate with Sriracha as needed. Serves 4 to 6.

Here is Caroline’s version of the dish. Note that she julienned her veggies to make everything even and gorgeous.

Soup Weather

Monday, October 24th, 2016
Trish Crapo, a fellow freelance writer, took this photo of me prepping the soup on "Mass Appeal" last week.

Trish Crapo, a fellow freelance writer, took this photo of me prepping the soup on “Mass Appeal” last week.

We are enjoying a roller-coaster of a fall here in New England. At first we thought there might be NO color, thanks to the very dry weather of the past few months. A couple of weeks ago the trees apparently got tired of being drab and started turning gorgeous shades of orange and yellow, along with just a little red.

The temperature has also vacillated. A couple of weeks ago we were routinely very cold. Last week suddenly Indian summer arrived. Over the weekend just as suddenly things turned raw and cold. I hope it doesn’t snow too soon—but I’m not sure that it won’t.

It’s now officially soup weather. I love soup in any weather, but somehow it seems most fitting when temperatures are plummeting. This simple blended soup is warm, hearty, spicy, and even healthy. All the vegetables are in season—at least here in New England.

Seeing cauliflower at a farm stand made me think of the wonderful spicy Indian cauliflower dish aloo gobi. My soup is loosely inspired by it. I’ve never seen aloo gobi that included carrots, but I had a ton of carrots from my farm share so in they went!

Thanks to my cousin Kate Corwin for coming up with the idea of using chopped cashews (following the Indian theme) as a garnish. The gang loved that addition when I made the soup on Mass Appeal last week.

soup-with-garnishesweb

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients:

1 small to medium (or 1/2 large) cauliflower
2 large carrots
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
olive oil as needed for roasting
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
curry powder to taste (if it is hot, use 1/2 teaspoon; if mild, at least 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
salt to taste
1 tablespoon honey
the juice of 1/2 lemon, plus more juice to taste
Greek yogurt for garnish (optional; even better if you put some chopped chives and parsley in it)
chopped roasted cashews for an additional garnish

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roughly chop the cauliflower, carrots, and onion. Toss those vegetables in a small amount of oil, and place them on a rimmed cookie sheet. Place the garlic cloves on a small sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle a little olive oil on top, and close the foil around the garlic. Place the covered garlic on the cookie sheet as well, and roast the vegetables for 1/2 hour, stirring and turning them after 15 minutes.

After removing the vegetables from the oven open the pouch of garlic and smash the cloves. Place all the vegetables in a 5-quart Dutch oven. Stir in the broth, curry powder, cumin, salt, and honey.

Bring the soup to a boil; then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the soup for 1/2 hour. When it has finished cooking, blend it with an immersion blender. (You may also use a regular blender, but in that case blend it in very small batches and watch out for burning.) Just before serving stir in the lemon juice. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a few cashew pieces if you like. Serves 4 to 6.

Here is the video. For some reason there is a gap in the recording beginning 42 seconds in and lasting for almost 50 seconds. Feel free to fast forward during that section!

Tinky’s Curried Cauliflower Soup

Alice’s Corn Fritters

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

frittersweb

During this golden season it can be REALLY hard to visit a farm stand and purchase just one ear of corn. I always end up buying at least two ears of this tempting vegetable—and sometimes four, six, or even 12! Consequently, the Tinky fridge usually features leftover corn in late August.

I have made much more complicated fritters in the past; in fact, I posted a fancier recipe here on this blog a few years back. When I was getting ready to cook on TV last week, however, I wanted something simple.

Luckily, my neighbor (and occasional musical collaborator) Alice Parker offered me the perfect recipe. It concentrates on two main flavors—the corn and BUTTER. You do have to be careful to keep the butter from melting, but your vigilance pays off.

The fritters disappeared fast on Mass Appeal, where I wore a yellow hat to pay tribute to the main ingredient and also to my late mother. (The hat belonged to her.) I wish I had a photo of her wearing it—but at least I have a photo of Alice! Here she is (on the left) getting ready to play the piano at our most recent concert, “Love Walked In.”

Alice and Estherweb

The Fritters

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more if you like!)
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup flour
2 cups kernels from barely cooked corn
butter as needed for frying (up to 1/2 stick—perhaps even a little more)

Instructions:

Separate the eggs. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. In a medium bowl whisk the egg yolks until they turn a paler yellow. Whisk in the baking powder, the salt, and the pepper. Using a wooden spoon stir in the flour, followed by the corn. Gently fold in the egg whites.

Warm a frying pan or griddle, and melt the butter. When it is nice and hot use a cookie scoop or spoon to form the corn mixture into little clumps, and fry them on both sides until brown, turning once. The mixture will be free form but delicious. Serve the fritters immediately by themselves, with sour cream and dill (my friend Betsy’s idea!), or with maple syrup. Serves 4.

And now the video. Note how fluffy the fritters become!

Apples Everywhere!

Monday, September 28th, 2015

apple treeweb

My neighborhood is awash in apples. No one can recall having seen an apple season like this one. (Last year we had practically NO apples!) Even my own old, pathetic apple trees have produced copious amounts of fruit.

The apples ripened early, and I have to admit that it took me a while to get around to doing anything with them. I like to eat (and cook with) apples when the weather gets cool—and so far it has remained remarkably warm.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I decided that if I didn’t use some of the fruit soon the birds and squirrels would get it all.

Of course, I have made applesauce, a staple of my fall kitchen. For my most recent television appearance on Mass Appeal I prepared a couple of additional recipes I have been longing to test.

The first was a coleslaw from my friend Chef Michael Collins. Michael is cooking up a storm at his new restaurant, a tiny, colorful place in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, called Ponte because of its proximity to the lovely Bridge of Flowers.

Michael couldn’t come with me to the TV station that day, but he gave me permission to use his recipe, which perfectly blended sweet and tart. Here I share both that recipe and my cooking video.

Enjoy apple season—and please comment below if you have found a fun new way to cook with apples. We still have a LOT of them in my neighborhood.

Michael Collins (left) with his partner Tony Palumbo at Ponte

Michael Collins (left) with his partner Tony Palumbo at Ponte

Michael’s Apple Slaw

Ingredients:

4 cups shredded cabbage (try for a fairly rough cut)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 large apple, unpeeled (any red apple), diced into chunks (if you really love apples, put in 2 of them!)
1/2 cup chopped or halved pecans (or peanuts or walnuts—whatever you have in the house), plain, toasted, or roasted
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup mayonnaise or light mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey (I like the honey)
1 tablespoon apple-cider vinegar
1 tablespoon milk (optional; I didn’t need it)

Instructions:

A couple of hours before you want to assemble the coleslaw, place the cabbage in a colander. Toss in a tablespoon of kosher salt, and leave the mixture to drain for at least an hour, maybe 2.

Soak the cabbage in cold water to remove the salt, and drain it thoroughly.

Toss together the cabbage, the apple pieces, the nuts, and the raisins or dried cranberries.

In a bowl combine the other ingredients. Pour the resulting dressing over the cabbage/apple mixture and mix thoroughly.

Refrigerate for 1/2 hour before eating. Eat within a day to keep the apple pieces crisp. Michael likes to serve this salad on a cabbage leaf.

Serves 6.

[youtube width=”420″ height=”315″]https://youtu.be/5QFsIc66WfA[/youtube]

The Charm of Chickpeas

Thursday, June 11th, 2015
Garbo in "Anna Christie," the film that was marketed using the slogan "Garbo Talks!"

Greta Garbo in “Anna Christie,” the film that was marketed using the slogan “Garbo Talks!”

I almost named this post “Garbanzo Talks!” The title was suggested by my clever friend Peter who knows how much I love film history. Since not everyone is a film buff, however, I succumbed to “the charm of chickpeas.”

My sister-in-law Leigh and I are currently doing a nutritional cleanse called Isagenix. We drink shakes provided by the company for breakfast and lunch but prepare snacks and dinner ourselves. Naturally, we want to make the yummiest food possible in order to keep ourselves from feeling deprived.

The chickpea dishes here are favorites among Isagenix users and are so tasty that I decided to prepare them on my TV spot yesterday on the program Mass Appeal. They made everyone in the television studio happy.

I first learned to love chickpeas when I was a child living in India. They respond beautifully to spices and are also used to make gram flour, a staple of Indian cuisine used (among other things) in pakoras, wonderful vegetable fritters.

I can’t eat pakoras while cleansing, but I did put Indian spices on my roasted chickpeas.

Thanks to Cuisinart for the mini-food processor that made the hummus a dream, and to Lodge for my wonderful pre-seasoned cast-iron pan.

roasted chickpeas web

Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients:

1-3/4 cups cooked chickpeas (1 15-ounce can if you want convenience)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon salt (if you want lower salt, start with 1/2 teaspoon and adjust later)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (roasted if you can find it)
1/2 teaspoon curry powder

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly and then drain them well; then lay them between layers of dishtowels or paper towels to dry even more. If you have time, leave them to dry for a while longer, even overnight.

Place a cast-iron skillet large enough to hold the chickpeas in a single layer on the stove. (A 12-inch skillet is ideal.)

Heat the pan; then add the olive oil. When the oil is heated, stir in the garlic, drained chickpeas, and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and make sure that the contents are well mixed; then place the pan in the oven.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring the chickpeas at the 10 and 20-minute marks. Be careful to avoid burning toward the end.

Remove the chickpeas from the oven, and toss in the spices. Place the spiced chickpeas on paper towels to cool slightly; then eat them.

If you don’t eat the chickpeas right away, they will lose their crunch, but they will still be tasty and nutritious. You may crisp them again in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes if you wish.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

hummusweb

Hummus without Tahini

Ingredients:

1-3/4 cups cooked chickpeas (1 15-ounce can if you want convenience)
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped or pressed through a garlic press
the juice of 1 lemon
1 heaping teaspoon almond butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste
spices to taste—consider smoked paprika and/or cumin

Instructions:

Place the ingredients in a small food processor and blend. (You may have to stop and stir them halfway through.) Taste to see whether the flavors please you, and adjust them if you they don’t. Try adding a little chili powder for extra spice.

Refrigerate for 1 hour before eating with veggies or tortilla chips. If you can’t wait, it will still taste yummy.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups hummus.

And now the video. Please note that Ashley Kohl was a little overgenerous with the olive oil in the hummus. It was delicious but not terribly cleanse-ing….

[youtube]https://youtu.be/mEL16lg6ymg[/youtube]