Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dark Days Update #14: Ravioli & Roasted Beets

We are more then halfway through the Dark Days Challenge! Though the recaps have ceased due to real life issues of the host of the challenge I have decided to keep pressing on as it has been a lot of fun, and a good way to keep the blog updated in the colder months when there isn't any gardening to report on. This is the 14th meal I am featuring with at least 7 more to come until the challenge ends (April 15th). Some weeks have been more creative then others. Some required cooking a meal from scratch while others came straight from the freezer or were picked up at one of the local winter markets.
This week's meal required very little extra effort on our part as the majority was already prepared and the main component was picked up this past Saturday at the winter market.

Last night Gail and I enjoyed garlic basil ravioli with goat cheese. We topped it with our last jar of homemade pasta sauce from the summer. I had mine with an absolutely delicious rosemary, red wine & feta cheese lamb sausage (pictured above). The sausage was a perfect compliment to the hearty sauce and ravioli!
On the side we had a bowl of roast golden and chioggia beets with mozzarella and our remaining chive goat cheese from a few weeks ago. The golden and striped beets added a colorful element to our dinner.

No recipes this week as roasting beets and tossing them with salt doesn't require instructions, nor does boiling water for ravioli.

Here is a look at what was local from last night's dinner:
Ravioli & Mozzarella Cheese (Fior D'Italia), Beets (Winter Moon Farm), Lamb Sausage & Goat Cheese (West River Creamery/Iceberg Farm), Pasta Sauce (our Garden & Summer Farmer's Markets).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dark Days #13: Local Valentine's Dinner

Sunday Night I set about transforming my purchases at Saturday's Winter Market into a romantic Valentine's dinner for Gail and I. I was extremely pleased with the results. We had a delicious and mostly local dinner which we enjoyed together. Below are photos & recipes for our wonderful meal.

The first thing I set about making was a batch of garlic bread sticks. Unfortunately there are only 2 of us and this recipe made 20 bread sticks. I'll be bringing them to lunch and snacking on them for some time! What I liked about this recipe is that I was able to mix the dough in the bread maker which allowed me to do other prep work during that time.
Soft Garlic Bread sticks
1 1/8 cups water (room temp)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons garlic powder or 2-3 cloves crushed and finely minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon minced basil (fresh if possible)
3 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon butter, melted.
-In the bread machine pan mix all of the ingredients except the butter.
-Once dough is done, turn onto a lightly floured surface & divide dough into 20 portions, shaping each into a ball.
-Roll each ball into a 6-9 inch rope
-Place on greased baking sheets, cover and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled
-Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until bread sticks are golden brown. Remove bread sticks to wire racks. Brush warm bread sticks with melted butter.

Next up was a simple salad of mixed greens, carrots, apples, chive goat cheese, and raspberry vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was made using frozen raspberries that Gail & I picked last summer. Simple Raspberry Vinaigrette
1/2 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup vegetable oil
-Combine all the ingredients in a blender/food processor except the vegetable oil.
-Puree until smooth
-Slowly incorporate the oil until well combined.
After the salad it was on to the main course. Butternut Squash Gnocchi with homemade tomato sauce and shaved Parmesan with a side of sauteed beets & radish tossed with dill. This was my first time making any sort of gnocchi and the results were fantastic! I wanted a simple side dish and the beets & radish fit the bill!
Sauteed Beets & Radish with Dill
2 beets
1 radish
1 tbsp butter
-Thin slice beets and radish. Try to slice all of the pieces to be approximately the same size.
-Melt the butter in skillet over medium heat
-Toss in beets and radish and cook for about a minute
-Add 1 tbsp of water and cover, cooking for an additional 3-4 minutes.
-Season with salt and pepper
-Toss with dill
For the seasoning and tossing with dill I used a metal prep bowl.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi
1/2 large butternut squash, seeds removed
kosher salt
ground black pepper
12 oz all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting.
-Preheat over to 400 F. Place squash cut side down on a baking tray and roast for 30 minutes. Turn and roast an additional 45 minutes, or until tender. Let rest for 15 minutes.
-Peel and puree roasted squash. Spread the puree on a baking try and let it cool to room temperature.
-Place squash puree in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
-Stir in the flour. Transfer to a work surface and knead the dough until smooth.
-Divide the dough into 8 pieces.
-Roll a piece of the dough into a 1/2 inch thick rope and sprinkle lightly with flour. Cut the rope into 1/2 inch pieces. Roll each piece along the back of the tines of a fork, pressing slightly with your thumb.
-Continue with this process until all the dough has been cut into gnocchi sized pieces.
-Layer the finished pieces on lightly floured parchment paper or baking trays and let dry for up to 2 hours.
-Cook the gnocchi in 2 batches in a large pot of boiling, salted water. They should cook up in 2 to 3 minutes. You will know they are done because they float to the surface of the water.
I served the finished gnocchi with a jar of homemade pasta sauce and a sprinkle of fresh grated Parmesan cheese, though it could be served with brown butter & sage sauce instead.
The gnocchi were very filling as a main dish and we had plenty left over.
For dessert it was Gail's favorite: Ice Cream! We had a serving of vanilla ice cream with defrosted strawberries and blackberries. I drizzled the juice from the defrosted berries over everything and served it all on a bed of homemade vanilla drop cookies. A simple and delightful end to a wonderful meal!
Simple Vanilla Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
-In a mixing bowl cream butter and sugar
-Beat in egg and vanilla
-Combine dry ingredients and add to the creamed mixture, mixing well.
-Drop by teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.
-Bake at 350 F for 12-14 minutes.
-Let cool on wire rack

What was local in our Valentine's dinner?? As much as possible!
For the bread sticks: Garlic (Red Fire Farm) Basil (my garden) Bread Flour (Four Star Farms & King Arthur Flour), and Butter (Katie's Homemade)
For the salad & vinaigrette: Baby Greens (E&T Farms), Carrots (Red Fire Farm), Apples (Charlton Orchard), Goat Cheese (West River Creamery), and Raspberries (Tougas Farm via our freezer)
For the Gnocchi, Sauce, & Vegetables: Butternut Squash & Beets (Winter Moon Farm), Flour (King Arthur Flour), Radish (Red Fire Farm), Dill (my garden), all of the ingredients in the homemade pasta sauce except the olive oil came from local farms or my garden and was made in late summer when everything was fresh.
For the dessert: Ice Cream (Batch Ice Cream), Strawberries (Cider Hill Farm via our freezer), Blackberries (Tougas Farm via our freezer), Butter (Katie's Homemade), Eggs (Baffoni's Farm), and flour (King Arthur Flour).

With the exception of a few pantry staples like salt, pepper, olive oil, etc. I was able to source most of the ingredients for our dinner from local farms or producers (like Batch Ice Cream or Katie's Homemade Butter) even in the middle of winter it has been possible, and only slightly challenging to source some of our produce/items locally!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Winter Farmer's Market!

Saturday saw another trip to the Wayland Winter Farmers Market. This time to pick up supplies for a romantic & local valentines dinner for Gail and I.
Here's what I grabbed: Butternut Squash & Beets from Winter Moon Farm. Apples & Cider from Charlton Orchard, Chive Goat Cheese from West River Creamery, Radishes from Red Fire Farm, and finally my Salad Greens and lovely Beeswax candles came from E&T Farms.

Come back tomorrow and I will show you how these lovely ingredients ended up as a valentines eve dinner for Gail and I!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dark Days Update #12: Breakfast for Dinner!

Thursday night we decided to have a simple, local, and delicious breakfast for dinner as part of the dark days challenge! We ended up with a really simple and tasty dinner! Scrambled eggs with garlic and red peppers, pancakes, and thick cut bacon (for me). Enjoyed with a delicious glass of cider!
It's been fun thinking up new ideas to fit the dark days challenge, and since I signed up I knew breakfast would definitely be an option to consider.
The red peppers & bacon came from the freezer, the eggs were from Gail's sister & her backyard chickens, and the flour in our pancakes were local. The cider was purchased last week at the farmers market.
Sometimes a simple an d easy meal really hits the spot and this was definitely one of those times!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Seeds Orders & Garden Planning

My seed order from Johnny's is relatively small for the spring but it definitely has an unexpected surprise.

Mostly we stalked up on herb seeds: Garlic Chives, Rosemary, Sage, Cilantro, Chives, Parsley, Thyme, Basil, Arugula. The Cilantro, Chives, Parsley, Thyme, Basil, & Arugula come as a collection of biodegradable herb disks made to be grown in containers.

I also ordered Mini Broccoli(Happy Rich) and Leek(Tadorna) seeds as well. The leeks are going to be started on the kitchen counter as soon as they arrive. Finally, the last part of the order is the unexpected surprise: Horseradish!!! I ordered a set of horseradish roots (5 total) which I will be planting in the space that will be freed up by many of the herbs. Hopefully the little horseradish experiment works. If so, come fall I will have enough to make my own horseradish as well as a supply of roots for the following year!

Along with the seed order I've also sorted through my seeds and have begun planning the layout/schedule of my garden.

Already in the ground is my garlic and Egyptian onions. Hopefully both will produce edible results as well as viable seed!

In addition to the herbs, mini broccoli, leeks and horseradish here's a good idea of what I'll be growing based on the seed I have on hand:

Bush Beans (Fresh Pick), Dry Beans (Ottawa Cranberry & Vermont Cranberry), Kale, Dill, Spinach (Bloomsdale), Butterhead Lettuce (Red Cross), Mustard Greens (Ruby Streaks), 2 different Greens Mixes (Johnny's Elegance Greens & High Mowing Mesclun Mix), Beets (Detroit Dark Red), Radish (Champion), & Carrots (Scarlet Nantes).

Lot's of greens and plenty of variety in that mix. In addition to the seeds I will be getting tomato, pepper, and some flower seedlings from a local farm.

Up for debate on planting is another attempt at cucumbers and zucchini (both of which were serious failures last year), as well as Swiss chard.

Missing from what I tried last year: full size broccoli, cabbage, onions, and potatoes. The broccoli and onions produced poor results while the cabbage took up valuable room and the results were less then impressive. The potatoes were fun to grow, but my little plot doesn't have the room to successfully grow them. With more space I would definitely try them again.

Looking back at the list it seems pretty daunting for my little plot, but I'm eager to take the lessons I learned last year and see how much further my knowledge and experience can take me in the upcoming year. Despite my plot currently being buried under multiple feet of snow I am looking forward to getting to work and building upon the great results I experienced last year.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Kitchen Before & After

Now that the correct fridge has finally been delivered the kitchen is officially done. Truth be told it has been done for about a month but we had the wrong fridge delivered once or twice thanks to the great customer service of Sears. That being said the new kitchen looks fantastic. I think Gail did an excellent job with the choices she made and the people she picked to install the cabinets, counter, and appliances did a wonderful job. Below are a few shots to highlight how great the new kitchen looks. Before pics are on the left and after shots are on the right:

The kitchen project consisted of: mounting the microwave over the stove, replacing the dishwasher & refrigerator, new granite counter tops and sink, as well as installation of new cabinets.
Along the left wall we had a small service cart that held the microwave. We moved the cart next to the stove which has opened up the left wall creating a lot more open space in a fairly cramped kitchen.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dark Days Update #11: Salad, Grilled Cheese, & Gelato

Another week brings another Dark Days Challenge and another salad and sandwich for dinner. This time with dessert as well!
This weeks salad consisted of mixed greens, apples, watermelon radish, and cheese. A nice light summery salad is definitely a treat during these colder months.
For the sandwich this week I made a rustic style bread and added the chipotle cheddar I picked up at Saturday's market. My sandwich also included smoked bacon from the freezer.
For dessert we had some marscapone & raspberry gelato topped with strawberries and blackberries from the freezer. A great taste of summer in the dead of winter. Freezing berries when we picked them fresh last summer was such a great idea.
I can't give away my recipe for a truly wonderful grilled cheese as it's a closely guarded secret, but the bread recipe can be found at King Arthur Flour!
Local Ingredients in our Salad, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, & Gelato:
Salad Greens (E & T Farms), Apples (Charlton Orchards Farm), Watermelon Radish (Red Fire Farm), Cheeses (West River Creamery), Bacon (Stillman's Farm), Sourdough Starter & Flour (King Arthur Flour), Gelato (Giovanna Gelato), & Berries (freezer- via Cider Hill Farm & Tougas Farm)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Return to the Wayland Winter Farmer's Market!

2 weeks ago I visited the Wayland Winter Farmer's Market, and last week I went to the Somerville Farmer's Market. This past Saturday I decided to return to Wayland for the Winter Farmer's Market at Russell's Garden Center. Figuring it would be nice to spread my support to both markets and their vendors next week I will try to visit the Somerville Market again.
As you can see we came back with a great variety of goods from the market:
After a delicious breakfast courtesy of Nashua, NH's Bagel Alley we hit the vendors and started stalking up. Here's what we got:
-Carrots, Onions, & Garlic from Red Fire Farm (Granby, MA)
-Whole Wheat Flat Bread & the newest spread, Muhammara (fire roasted red peppers, walnuts, and pomegranate with a nice cayenne pepper kick) from Samira's Homemade. (Belmont, MA)
-Mix Salad Greens from E & T Farms (West Barnstable, MA)
-Pam's Salstina (Pea Pesto with a Guacamole like consistency) from Pam's Black Bean Salsa (Marblehead, MA)
-Gala Apples & Cider from Charlton Orchards Farm (Charlton, MA)
-Local Root Beer from the great Tower Root Beer (Somerville, MA)
-Smoked Cheddar, Chipotle Cheddar, & Goat Tomme cheese's from West River Creamery. (Londonderry, VT)
and if that wasn't enough we also picked up dessert:
-Marscapone and Raspberry Gelato from Giovanna Gelato (Newton, MA)

Such a great variety for the 'darkest' days of the year. Once again, in the dead of winter we will be looking forward to a fresh salad in our future! Life is good.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dark Days Update #10: Salad & Foccacia Sandwhich

Sunday nights Dark Days Challenge meal brought me back to the height of summer. No fancy recipes or crazy planning. We picked up a container of salad greens, a beet, and mozzarella cheese at the Somerville Farmers Market. Dinner was nearly complete!
Our dinner was a simple salad of mixed greens & roasted beets along with a pesto and mozzarella sandwich on homemade focaccia with roasted red peppers in oil. I made the focaccia using local flour. The pesto was made this summer with the abundance of Basil I harvested and the roasted red peppers in oil were a gift from a family friend who made them with fresh peppers this summer.
Local Ingredients in the salad & focaccia sandwiches:
Salad Greens (NorthStar Farms), Beets (Winter Moon Farm), Flour (King Arthur Flour), Mozzarella (Fiore Di Nonno), Pesto (My Garden, made this summer), Roasted Red Pepper (Family Friend, made with fresh peppers this summer)