CSA Week Fourteen: Tomatoes

heirloom-tomatoesThe tomato is the fruit of the plant Lycopersicon esculentum. (Botanically speaking, tomato is not only a fruit, but also a berry since it is formed from a single ovary.) Originally, tomato was named after the food family to which it belongs – the Solanaceae (sometimes called “solanoid” or “nightshade”) family.  Although tomatoes are fruits in a botanical sense, they don’t have the dessert quality sweetness of other fruits. Instead they have a subtle sweetness that is complemented by a slightly bitter and acidic taste. Cooking tempers the acid and bitter qualities in tomatoes and brings out their warm, rich sweetness.

Although tomatoes are often closely associated with Italian cuisine, they are actually originally native to the western side of South America, in the region occupied by Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and the western half of Bolivia. The Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador are also believed to be part of tomatoes’ native area. The first type of tomato grown is thought to have more resembled the smaller-sized cherry tomato than the larger varieties.   The word “tomato” may actually originate from the Nahautl (Aztecan) word “tomatl ” meaning “the swelling fruit.” It wasn’t until the 1500’s that Spanish explorers and colonizers brought tomato seeds from Mexico back to Spain and introduced this food to European populations.  Although the use of tomatoes spread throughout Europe (including Italy) over the course of the 1500’s, tomatoes did not enjoy full popularity then and were seen by many people as unfit to eat. Part of this “food inappropriateness” was associated with the status of the tomato plant as a nightshade plant and its potential poisonousness in this regard.

The French sometimes refer to the tomato as pomme d’amour, meaning “love apple,” and in Italy, tomato is sometimes referred to as “pomodoro” or “golden apple,” probably referring to tomato varieties that were yellow/orange/tangerine in color.


Tomatoes are a treasure of riches when it comes to their antioxidant benefits. In terms of conventional antioxidants, tomatoes provide an excellent amount of vitamin C and beta-carotene; a very good amount of the mineral manganese; and a good amount of vitamin E. In terms of phytonutrients, tomatoes are basically off the chart, and include: flavonones, hydroxycinnamic acids, carotenoids, and glycosides.  Tomatoes are most often associated with lycopene (a carotenoid phytonutrient widely recognized for its antioxidant properties) but are also an excellent source vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum, and vitamin K. They are also a very good source of copper, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin B6, folate, niacin, vitamin E, and phosphorus. Additionally, they are a good source of chromium, pantothenic acid, protein, choline, zinc, and iron.


PREP TIME: Since tomatoes are sensitive to cold, and it will impede their ripening process, store them at room temperature and out of direct exposure to sunlight. They will keep for up to a week, depending upon how ripe they are when picked. To hasten the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with a banana or apple since the ethylene gas that these fruits emit will help speed up the tomato’s maturation. If the tomatoes begin to become overripe, but you are not yet ready to eat them, place them in the refrigerator (if possible, in the butter compartment which is a warmer area), where they will keep for one or two more days. Removing them from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before using will help them to regain their maximum flavor and juiciness. Whole tomatoes, chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce freeze well for future use in cooked dishes. Sun-dried tomatoes should be stored in an airtight container, with or without olive oil, in a cool dry place.

Before serving, wash tomatoes under cool running water and pat dry.

If your recipe requires seeded tomatoes, cut the fruit in half horizontally and gently squeeze out the seeds and the juice. However, think about the recipe and consider whether the tomato could be incorporated with seeds intact. There are simply too many valuable nutrients in the seeds that you would not want to lose unnecessarily.

When cooking tomatoes, avoid aluminum cookware since the high acid content of the tomatoes may interact with the metal in the cookware. As a result, there may be migration of aluminum into the food, which may not only impart an unpleasant taste, but more importantly, may have a potentially unwanted impact on your health.

Whenever possible, try to develop recipes that make use of the whole tomato. Research shows higher lycopene content in whole tomato products. For example, when the skins of tomatoes are included in the making of the tomato paste, the lycopene and beta-carotene content of the paste is significant higher according to research studies.


To make your own basic tomato sauce, simply sauté a couple of cloves of chopped garlic and/or 1 or 2 large chopped onions for a couple of minutes until they are translucent. Add 8 to 10 chopped whole tomatoes and a teaspoon of dried—or several teaspoons of fresh chopped—oregano, basil, and any other herbs you enjoy (such as parsley or rosemary). Simmer for 30-45 minutes. Remove from the heat, drizzle with olive oil, and add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. For a fancier version, sauté chopped olives and/or mushrooms along with the garlic and onions.


Late Summer Bruschetta

2-3 large tomatoes
1 crunchy sweet pepper
1 medium sweet onion
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil
small handful of fresh basil, chopped
crusty bread (like a baguette)
shredded mozzarella or grated Parmesan

Chop the vegetables into a mid-size dice.  Combine with garlic, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and basil.  Slice baguette down the middle and lay the 2 sides cut side up.  Brush with additional 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle on cheese.  Broil bread for several minutes until bread or cheese browns a bit.  Top the sections with some of the vegetable mixture.

Tomato Gravy

6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup water
3 Tablespoons flour

Prepare tomatoes.  Heat oil and saute onions 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add sugar, salt and pepper.  Combine water and flour.  Stir into tomatoes.  Cook and stir until thickened.


MORE TOMATO RECIPES:  Stuffed Tomatoes, Easy Homemade Marinara Sauce, Garlic Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Baked Parmesan Tomatoes,  Tomato Pie,  Three Cheese Tomato Tart, Oven Roasted Tomatoes,  Seashells with Basil, Tomatoes and Garlic , Easy Garden Gazpacho, Roasted Tomatoes with Fontina and Thyme

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CSA Week Thirteen: More Eggplant

eggplant1I had to laugh when I read “eggplants are nutritionally challenged” in my produce book.  It follows (and redeems itself) by saying ” but is valued in vegetarian dishes for their meaty flavor and texture” which I find to be true.  The best meat substitutes I’ve found are eggplant and portabella mushrooms!  Eggplants are high in water content, low in calories and high in fiber which also makes it a great vegetable for those looking to lose a few pounds.

Eggplant is believed to have originated in India or Burma and then made its way to popularity in Northern Africa and Arab countries.  Funny enough, when eggplant appeared in Europe, it was believed to be poisonous and was grown for ornamental purposes.  There are many types of eggplant, and we are seeing several of them this growing season, but luckily they are pretty well interchangeable in recipes.

Your eggplant is best used fresh, and because of its high water content will go spongy pretty quickly.  Store your eggplant at cool room temperature or in the drawer of your refrigerator for up to one week.  Probably not one of the better vegetables to freeze, but you can if you want.  Simply soak five minutes in a solution of 4 Tablespoons salt per gallon of water and blanch for two minutes in steam.  Cool immediately in cold water, dry and package in layers.

Some more tips about your eggplant….

More thin-skinned eggplant like our Asian eggplant can be eaten whole, but you may want to peel any larger eggplants.  To remove any acrid flavors and excess moisture before cooking, lightly salt slices of eggplant and allow them to sit in a colander for 10-15 minutes.  Gently squeeze out any liquid.  If you are using oil in your recipe this method will also allow the eggplant to soak up less oil.

To bake, prick eggplant all over with a fork and bake at 400 degrees until flesh is tender, about 30 minutes.

To stuff, bake about 20 minutes, scoop out the seeds, replace with stuffing mixture, return to oven and bake for 15 more minutes.

To fry, dip in favorite batter and lightly fry in vegetable oil.

To saute, dip slices or chunks in flour, or eggs and bread crumbs before sauteing.  Saute in hot oil until light brown, season with herbs, garlic or grated cheese.


BAKED EGGPLANT SLICES

1 medium eggplant
salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup minced green onion
1 cup cracker crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Peel eggplant and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Sprinkle with salt, let drain about 30 minutes then pat dry.  Combine mayonnaise and onion.  Spread on both sides of eggplant slices.  Mix crumbs with cheese.  Dip coated eggplant into crumb mixture.  Place on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees  for approximately 20 minutes.


EGGPLANT PARMESAN

2 small eggplants
salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
4 cups peeled and sliced tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano or basil
1 teaspoon parsley
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cut eggplants crosswise into 1/2-inch slices.  Sprinkle with salt and let drain at least 30 minutes.  Meanwhile heat oil in a large skillet.  Saute onion and garlic about three minutes.  Add tomatoes, sugar, salt, herbs and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.  Pat eggplants dry.  Dust with flour.  Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in a skillet and lightly brown eggplants on both sides.  Place half of the slices in a 13×9 baking dish.  Cover with half of the tomato sauce and  half of the mozzarella.  Repeat the layers and sprinkle Parmesan over top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.


MORE EGGPLANT RECIPES:  Eggplant Pizzas, Simple Roasted Eggplant, Layered Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomato Casserole,  Eggplant Stuffed With Ricotta, Spinach and Artichokes, Stuffed Eggplant with Beef, Eggplant Fries, Eggplant Sliders, Grilled Eggplant Sandwich


 

 

 

CSA Week Twelve: Jalapenos

mammoth-Jalapeno-mBotanically, jalapenos are fruit pods from the nightshade family in the genus, capsicum.  Jalapenos are mostly available green, turning red as they mature, but sometimes waiting for them to turn red is the hard part, either because you are afraid they will crack or you just want to go ahead and pick them!

Jalapenos  have a strong spicy taste that comes from the active alkaloid compounds; capsaicin, capsanthin and capsorubin. On the Scoville  hotness scale, jalapeños fall in medium-hot range  at 2,500-4,000 “Scoville heat units” (SHU).  An easy way to compare: sweet bell peppers have zero units, and Mexican habañeros have 200,000 to 500,000 units.  I warn you not to just take a huge bite out of one as my daughter did when I wasn’t home.  Tolerance level of peppers,  including jalapenos, may have wide individual variations. Wherever feasible, they should be consumed in moderation.  Instead of biting them whole, slice them and use them sparingly or scoop out the spicy seeds and membrane to stuff and roast them.   And be careful when cutting fresh jalapenos because the capsaicin can burn your skin and eyes.  Wear gloves while handling jalapenos, or wash your hands when finished.

That capsaicin does have it’s benefits though.  It has been found to have anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic, and anti-diabetic properties, at least in some early laboratory studies on experimental mammals. It also found to reduce LDL-cholesterol levels in obese individuals.  Capsaicin has also shown promise for weight loss, especially of hard-to-lose belly fat, by increasing energy expenditure after consumption

Jalapenos are also  a rich source of vitamin C, with almost 17 milligrams in a small pepper. That is equal to 18 percent of the recommended daily allowance for men and 23 percent for women. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps prevent damage from free radicals,  molecules that can cause cell damage in your body. Jalapenos also supply a good amount of vitamin A which supports skin and eye health; one pepper offers 17 percent of the RDA for men and 22 percent for women.

To round it out,  they contain other valuable antioxidants such as vitamin A, and flavonoids like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, zea xanthin, and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidant substances in capsicum help to protect the body from injurious effects of free-radicals generated from stress and disease conditions.  Jalapeno chillies characteristically contain more pyridoxine, vitamin E, vitamin K than other varieties of peppers. Vitamin K increases bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones. It also has the beneficial effect in Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain.


Cooking reduces the heat of jalapeno peppers. While it would be rare to eat a whole jalapeno pepper, sliced and diced jalapenos make a spicy addition to tomato and mango salsas, nachos, black and pinto beans and corn-based dishes. If you like your food hot, leave more of the inner white membrane on the chopped pepper, as that is where most of the capsaicin is concentrated. You can also roast jalapenos and other chili peppers, which imparts a smoky flavor.   And if you want to keep some for later try pickling or preserving them.


JALAPENO SALSA

5 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
10 green onions
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded if desired
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt

In a blender or food processor, pulse the tomatoes, green onions, jalapeno peppers, and cilantro to desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in the lime juice, hot pepper sauce, black pepper, garlic powder, and salt.


SWEET JALAPENO CORNBREAD

2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
2 cups cornmeal
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 2/3 cups milk
1 cup chopped fresh jalapeno peppers, or to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.

Beat margarine and sugar together in a large bowl until smooth. Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in another bowl. Stir eggs and milk in a third bowl. Pour 1/3 milk mixture and 1/3 flour mixture alternately into margarine mixture; whisk until just mixed. Repeat with remaining ingredients and stir in jalapeno peppers. Spread mixture evenly into prepared baking pan.

Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 22 to 26 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before slicing.


MORE JALAPENO RECIPES: Preserved Pickled Jalapenos, Cornbread Chorizo Stuffing, Tomato Salad,  Chicken with Tex-Mex Salsa,  Grilled Jalapeno Poppers, Slow Cooker Corn and Jalapeno Dip, Jalapeno Jelly, Jalapeno Popper Pull Apart Bread, Cheddar Jalapeno Chicken Burgers with Guacamole


 

 

CSA Week Eleven: Japanese Eggplant

ggg ASIAN EGGPLANT:  Eggplant is actually a fruit (it’s part of the same nightshade family that includes the other confusing is-it-a-fruit-or-a-vegetable plant, the tomato). In the U.S., eggplant tends to appear mostly in Italian or Mediterranean dishes, but Southern and Southeast Asian cuisines have long incorporated the fruit as well. Japanese eggplant is noticeably less plump than its more familiar pear-shaped cousin   Japanese eggplant is even more versatile because it has a much thinner skin and is practically seedless. The sponginess of its fleshy inside drinks in seasonings like soy sauce, miso and ginger.  Japanese eggplant is milder and less bitter than other varieties. Since it’s extra spongy, don’t overdo the marinades — a little goes a long way

Eggplant is native to Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Unlike other members of the Solanaceae family, which are native to the New World, eggplant varieties are native to the Old world.  In Modern Japan, eggplant is the third most important vegetable for culinary use.  In France, eggplants are called  “aubergine”  which you may have used to describe that deep purple color in other areas of life.

Raw eggplant is very low in calories, saturated fat and sodium, with only 20 calories per cup. It’s a high source of dietary fiber and is packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, folate, potassium and manganese. By leaving the thin skin on, Japanese eggplant  will add fiber to your diet, causing you to remain full for longer periods of time while regulating your digestive system.  Along with other nightshade plants like bell peppers and potatoes, Japanese eggplants also contain antioxidants like nasunin, which is thought to protect cell membranes in the brain.


PREP TIME:  Eggplant is quite perishable and will not store long. They may be refrigerated for up to seven days; however, it is best to use them as soon as possible.  Handle eggplants gingerly, as they bruise easily. When storing them in the refrigerator, wrap in a paper towel, and place in a perforated plastic bag before storing in the veggie drawer.

If you want to freeze your eggplant for future use :
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large container of ice and water to fit the eggplant ready.
Slice eggplant about 1/3-inch thick. Work quickly or the peeled eggplant will begin to brown. Place slices into boiling water and cover for 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the slices to the ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, thoroughly drain slices and pat dry. Separate slices with plastic wrap, place into freezer bags, squeeze out all the air, and seal tightly.


ASIAN EGGPLANT

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stems trimmed
5 tablespoons canned low-salt chicken broth
2 green onions, chopped
2 large garlic cloves
1 small jalapeño chili, chopped
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
4 tablespoons peanut oil
1 1 1/4-pound eggplant, cut lengthwise into 3/4-inch-wide slices and slices cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide-strips
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Combine cilantro, 1 tablespoon broth, green onions, garlic, chili and ginger in processor and puree until paste forms.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot. Add half of eggplant. Cover skillet and cook until eggplant is tender and beginning to brown, turning once, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels. Repeat with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and remaining eggplant.

Add cilantro paste and soy sauce to skillet and stir over medium-high heat 2 minutes. Return eggplant to skillet and add remaining 4 tablespoons broth. Stir until sauce thickens and boils and eggplant is heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.


EGGPLANT IN GARLIC SAUCE

2 asian eggplants
1 tbsp soy sauce
cooking oil
1/2 tbsp of minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, finely chopped

Cut eggplants into chunks and soak them in saltwater.  Let soak  about 15 minutes.
Mince garlic and ginger and chop scallion.

Heat a skillet up with hot water.  Add a bit of oil and salt to the hot water.  When it starts boiling, throw the eggplants in the hot water for just a minute or until you see the purple skin start turning slightly brown.  This step will prevent your eggplants from absorbing too much oil and getting all greasy.

In another pan, add cooking oil and set at high heat.  Add your minced ginger and garlic.

Add the eggplants and soy sauce, (and optional: sprinkle some sugar) and stir about 5 minutes or until eggplants are cooked thoroughly.  At the very end, add the chopped scallions, stir and turn off the heat.


MORE ASIAN EGGPLANT RECIPES: Stuffed Miso Eggplant, Eggplant Chips with Cilantro DressingEggplant and Tofu Curry, Ratatouille Spirals, Spicy Eggplant Stir Fry, Spicy Eggplant with Pork,  Japanese Eggplant Salad, Roasted Eggplant with Artichoke Hearts and Salsa Verde

 

 

 

 

CSA Week Ten : Basil

basilBasil is one herb you want to use or store within a week.  Because the oils in the leaves are the source of that wonderful aroma and taste, drying basil is not recommended.  When using it in cooking you want to add it at the last-minute so the flavor isn’t diminished.  You can keep your basil fresh in a bag in the refrigerator for a period up to a week, or for a longer period in the freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water.

The word basil comes from the Greek word,  basileus, meaning “king”, as it has come to be associated with the Feast of the Cross commemorating the finding of the True Cross by St Helena mother of the emperor St. Constantine.  Many cooks consider basil “king” of the herbs.

Personally, I place my extra leaves in olive oil and store them in the refrigerator for short-term use, or the freezer for a period of months.  You can also store basil leaves layered in coarse salt which gives the salt which can be used at a later time a unique flavor.  Just be sure to keep an eye on your containers in a cool dry place to avoid spoilage or botulism.


The most common way to use basil is in pesto which is easy to make and has a myriad of uses.  A simple basil pesto recipe is as follows:

  • 3 cloves garlic, peel removed
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (you can use walnuts or almonds as well)
  • 2 ounces fresh basil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

Place the peeled garlic cloves and toasted pine nuts in a food processor, and process for about 30 seconds until it’s well pureed and almost pastey.

Strip off the leaves from the basil stems, and add the leaves only to the food processor, and pulse it in until the basil is chopped up.

Add a pinch of salt and pepper to the mixture. With the food processor running, pour in the olive oil, and once it’s incorporated, stop the food processor. Add the parmesan cheese, and pulse it in a couple of times until incorporated.

Do a final taste of the pesto and decide if it might need more salt or pepper.


PESTO RECIPES: Roasted Garlic and Pesto Chicken Flatbreads, Pesto Grilled Shrimp, Pesto Lemon Rice, Pesto Potato Skillet, Braided Pesto Bread, Pesto Risotto

 

 

 

CSA Week Nine: Leeks

leeksLEEKS:    Another of those foods with a lot of green leaf.  This one though you aren’t eating the tops of.  I think they would make a nice fan though on a hot summer’s day or a good flyswatter.  The nice thing about getting your leeks through the CSA is that you don’t pay for all the extra green tops you are discarding, as you would at a grocery store. So the scoop on leeks?  They are a good source of dietary fiber, and contain folic acid, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. Leeks are a part of the “allium” family along with garlic and onions.  Leeks are milder and easier to digest than standard onions and have laxative, antiseptic, diuretic, and anti-arthritic properties.

Leeks were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans and were especially revered for their beneficial effect upon the throat. The Greek philosopher Aristotle credited the clear voice of the partridge to a diet of leeks, while the Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger.

The Romans are thought to have introduced leeks to the United Kingdom, where they were able to flourish because they could withstand cold weather. Leeks have attained an esteemed status in Wales, where they serve as this country’s national emblem. The Welsh regard for leeks can be traced back to a battle that they successfully won against that Saxons in 1620, during which the Welsh soldiers placed leeks in their caps to differentiate themselves from their opponents. Today, leeks are an important vegetable in many northern European cuisines and are grown in many European countries.


PREP TIME: Fresh leeks should be stored unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator, where they will keep fresh for between one and two weeks. Wrapping them loosely in a plastic bag will help them to retain moisture. Cooked leeks are highly perishable, and even when kept in the refrigerator, will only stay fresh for about two days.

Cut off green tops of leeks and remove outer tough leaves. Cut off root and cut leeks in half lengthwise. Fan out the leeks and rinse well under running water, leaving them intact. Cut leeks into 2-inch lengths. Holding the leek sections cut side up, cut lengthwise so that you end up with thin strips, slicing until you reach the green portion.


This is my favorite leek recipe….ever.  It is from Jamie Oliver’s Family Dinners cookbook and I’ve made it so many times I basically know it by heart.  I’ve made it without the wine when I didn’t have it, but prefer the taste with wine.  Also you can make it without the sausage, but again it adds another layer of flavor.  Do use puff pastry for the topping though, it makes the dish. 

Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Leek Pie
2 knobs (pats) butter
2 pounds  boned and skinned chicken legs, cut into pieces
2 medium leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 sticks celery, finely sliced
Small handful thyme sprigs, leaves picked
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 wineglass white wine
1 1/4 cups milk
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
9 ounces good pork sausages
1 16-ounce package all-butter puff pastry
1 large egg, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt

chicken-leek-pie

Take a large casserole pot and add a glug of olive oil and your butter. Add the chicken, leeks, carrots, celery, and thyme and cook slowly over medium heat for 15 minutes. Turn the heat right up, add the flour, and keep stirring for a couple of minutes before stirring in the wine, then a wineglass of water, and then the milk. Season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper, then cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer very slowly on the stove, stirring and scraping the pan every so often, until the chicken is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. The sauce should be quite thick. If it’s a little too liquidy, just continue to simmer it with the lid off until it thickens slightly. (At this point you can let it cool and keep it in the fridge for a couple of days if you want to before assembling the pot pie—or it can also be eaten as a stew.) Pour the chicken mixture into an appropriately sized pie dish.

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Adjust the oven rack to the middle position.

Squeeze the pork sausage out of the casings, roll it into little balls, and brown them with a little olive oil in a clean skillet over medium heat. Place them over the stew.

Roll out your pastry to about 1/4 inch thick. Carefully drape the pastry over the dish, using a knife to trim any pastry hanging over the edge of the dish. Lightly brush the top of the pastry with the egg to make it turn golden while baking. If desired, pinch the pastry to crimp it round the edge of the dish (there’s no need to do this, but I like to as my mum always does it and it makes it look pretty. I also use the back of a knife to lightly crisscross the top of the pastry—this makes the pastry crisp and flaky.) Bake the chicken pot pie in the center of the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes, until golden on top.


CREAMY ONE POT SPAGHETTI WITH LEEKS
{courtesy of Food & Wine}

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 anchovy fillet, drained
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 pound spaghetti, noodles broken in half
3 3/4 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream

201404-r-creamy-one-pot-spaghetti-with-leeks

In a pot, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, scallions, leeks and shallot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are softened, 6 minutes. Add the anchovy, crushed red pepper, spaghetti, stock, cream and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, until the pasta is tender and a sauce forms, 11 minutes. Stir in the chives and 1/4 cup of cheese; season with salt. Serve the pasta with extra cheese on the side.


MORE LEEK RECIPES:  Potato Leek Soup, Pasta With Bacon and Leeks, Scalloped Potatoes With Leeks, Mushroom and Leek Quiche, Bacon and Leek Quiche, Breakfast Casserole With Leeks, Brie Leek Tarts, Quinoa Salad With Leeks and Feta


 

CSA Week Eight : Lemon Balm

c6d6a10afc76ca3497a6a77c00ea079cOne of the first herbs my Aunt Pat (a wonderful gardener, cook and herbalist) gave me was lemon balm.  It’s one of those herbs that is gorgeous, easy to grow, prolific, has multitudes of uses and smells great to boot.  Lemon balm is a member of the mint family (hence it’s prolific growth) and is a perennial, one of those wonderful herbs that you only have to plant once.  Lemon Balm’s botanical name, “Melissa”, is Greek for “bee” which is why it can also be commonly called bee balm.  In fact, in the 16th Century, Lemon Balm was rubbed onto beehives to encourage the bees to produce honey.

Lemon Balm was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion (including gas and bloating, as well as colic). Even before the Middle Ages, lemon balm was steeped in wine to lift the spirits, help heal wounds, and treat venomous insect bites and stings. Today, lemon balm is often combined with other calming, soothing herbs, such as valerian, chamomile, and hops, to help promote relaxation.

Lemon balm is used for digestive problems, including upset stomach, bloating, intestinal gas, vomiting, and colic; for pain, including menstrual cramps, headache and toothache; and for depression, anxiety and sleeplessness.

Lemon balm has also been suggested to be helpful in the treatment of  Alzheimer’s disease,  attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Graves’ disease, rapid heartbeat due to nervousness, high blood pressure,cold sores, tumors, and insect bites.

You can steep lemon balm in hot water for a calming bedtime tea, chew or pound the leaves and apply as a poultice for stings, and of course use it in any number of culinary and beverage choices.  Here are a few to get you started.


SUMMERTIME COOLER WITH LEMON BALM

6 cups fresh or reconstituted frozen orange juice
1 – 46-ounce can pineapple juice
¼ – ½ cup sugar, depending upon sweetness of fruit juices
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice to brighten flavor
Fresh branches of lemon balm, lemon basil, and a mild spearmint to fill container halfway. No woody branches should be used.

Combine orange and pineapple juices, along with sugar in a non-reactive (glass or plastic) container fitted with a lid; stir until sugar is dissolved. Add lemon juice to brighten flavor and adjust sugar if needed.

Bruise branches of herbs by twisting to release essential oils. Add herbs to container of juices, packing in as much as possible but making sure herbs are covered with liquid.

Cover container and refrigerate overnight, to allow juice to become flavored. Strain juices, pressing out as much liquid as possible from  herbs. Check for sweetness and serve over ice. Crushed ice may be pureed with juice to create a lemony “smoothie.


LEMON BALM SCONES

Makes about 2 dozen scones

2¼ cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup cream
2 tablespoons freshly chopped lemon balm
1½ teaspoons lemon zest, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and blend thoroughly. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Stir the buttermilk and cream together with the lemon balm and zest. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir to form a soft dough.

Turn the dough onto a floured pastry marble or board, knead gently until it just comes together, and roll out to ½-inch thickness. Cut the dough with 1¾- or 2-inch cookie cutter and place on an ungreased
baking sheet.

Bake the scones for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to baking rack to cool slightly before serving. The scones are best served warm and right after baking. If you want to prepare them in
advance, cool them completely and store them in an airtight container. Wrap them in foil and gently reheat them in a 325°F oven for about 10 to 15 minutes.


LEMON BALM HONEY

Use  to  flavor hot or cold tea, sweet scones, pastries, fresh fruit or try it drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

1½ cup honey
¼ cup hard packed, fresh lemon balm leaves
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 strip of lemon peel
10 whole allspice
10 whole cloves

Heat honey in a small saucepan until very warm. Place remaining ingredients in a large, clean glass jar and pour warm honey over. Stir, cover and set aside for 2 days at room temperature.


MORE LEMON BALM RECIPES:  Beekeeper’s Balm Cocktail, Lemon Balm Cookies,  Rhubarb Lemon Balm Margarita, Lemon Balm Pesto, Lemon Balm and Parsley Spaghetti,  Roasted Lemon Balm Chicken,  Honey Lemon Balm Sore Throat Candy Drops, Double Lemon Tea Bread, Assorted Lemon Balm Teas