A Sauce for All Summer

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It's too cold for field-grown basil, which requires overnight temperatures at 50' or above, but here at the Farm, we have an early supply from our greenhouses. Basil Pesto is the first thing that I always make with this herb. Last night it went on top of a Provencal-inspired halibut stew and tonight, I'll drizzle it over a homemade pizza. You'll find many recipes for this classic sauce, most with the same ingredients (basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan cheese) in varying proportions. Since pine nuts are expensive (Trader Joe's and Costco sell them for less than most grocery stores), I sometimes substitute walnuts. Marcella Hazan shares her version in her wonderful book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. And of course, there are thousands of recipes online; I even found a vegan version that substitutes nutritional yeast for the cheese. (Off topic, I make a popcorn seasoning by combining nutritional yeast with crushed red pepper and salt...addictive). So I won't give yet another recipe, but I do have a tip: to set the bright green color, blanch your basil (dump it into boiling water for no more than a second, then immediately drain into a colander and rinse with cold water) and add some fresh parsley, which keeps it's bright color better than basil, to the other ingredients.

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If you freeze or refrigerate the pesto, allow it to come to room temperature before using, and don't heat it over the stove, which will cause it to darken unpleasantly. Toss it with hot pasta, spoon it over a pizza, spread it on warm slices of bread, stir it into mayonnaise, spread it on grilled fish, eat it straight from a spoon.

Pure and Simple

 Duck eggs are a fairly recent addition to our farm and I was excited to experiment with them, having long heard that they are exceptionally rich. Vanilla ice cream seemed like the perfect way to highlight their qualities, especially their deep golden yolks. Some years ago, it became almost impossible to find pure ice cream at the supermarket; to my knowledge, there is only one national brand left that does not contain carrageenan, xanthum gum, or other additives and stabilizers. The move was supposedly to meet customer preferences for a perfectly smooth product, but I have my doubts. Wanting frozen custard without the weird stuff, I started making it. It's simple enough that it was a once a week task all last summer to go along with the blackberry cobblers and fruit pies. Using duck eggs made it even richer and more golden, but you can use chicken eggs and either is better than anything you can buy. You'll need an ice cream maker; mine is a Cuisinart that I've had forever.  Vanilla Ice Cream   2/3 cup sugar ,  2 large chicken eggs  (our duck eggs were only slightly larger than the chicken ones, so I used two, but if yours are very large, use one or one whole, plus one yolk...someday I will weigh them to get a precise amount),  2 Tablespoons all purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 2/3 cups whole milk, 1 cup heavy cream, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract  (I also used the seeds from one vanilla bean in the photo above).  Mix the sugar, beaten eggs, and flour together in a bowl. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk on low until beginning to steam. Pour the egg mixture into the milk and stir frequently, keeping the heat low. You'll notice after a while that it turns from very liquid to slightly thicker; be very careful to not let the mixture boil or you will have creamy scrambled eggs. Remove from the heat when it thickens slightly and pour through a sieve into a 4-cup measuring cup or bowl. Stir in the cream and vanilla and allow to cool completely before pouring into your ice cream maker and freezing according to the manufacturers instructions.

Duck eggs are a fairly recent addition to our farm and I was excited to experiment with them, having long heard that they are exceptionally rich. Vanilla ice cream seemed like the perfect way to highlight their qualities, especially their deep golden yolks. Some years ago, it became almost impossible to find pure ice cream at the supermarket; to my knowledge, there is only one national brand left that does not contain carrageenan, xanthum gum, or other additives and stabilizers. The move was supposedly to meet customer preferences for a perfectly smooth product, but I have my doubts. Wanting frozen custard without the weird stuff, I started making it. It's simple enough that it was a once a week task all last summer to go along with the blackberry cobblers and fruit pies. Using duck eggs made it even richer and more golden, but you can use chicken eggs and either is better than anything you can buy. You'll need an ice cream maker; mine is a Cuisinart that I've had forever.

Vanilla Ice Cream

2/3 cup sugar, 2 large chicken eggs (our duck eggs were only slightly larger than the chicken ones, so I used two, but if yours are very large, use one or one whole, plus one yolk...someday I will weigh them to get a precise amount), 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 2/3 cups whole milk, 1 cup heavy cream, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I also used the seeds from one vanilla bean in the photo above).

Mix the sugar, beaten eggs, and flour together in a bowl. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk on low until beginning to steam. Pour the egg mixture into the milk and stir frequently, keeping the heat low. You'll notice after a while that it turns from very liquid to slightly thicker; be very careful to not let the mixture boil or you will have creamy scrambled eggs. Remove from the heat when it thickens slightly and pour through a sieve into a 4-cup measuring cup or bowl. Stir in the cream and vanilla and allow to cool completely before pouring into your ice cream maker and freezing according to the manufacturers instructions.

A Sure Sign of Spring

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When LB told me a patch of chives were about to be ploughed over, I jumped at the chance to dig them up and make use of them. Chives from the grocery store tend to be slimy within 24 hours of bringing them home and they never have the pretty and distinctly oniony-flavored blossoms attached. But farm grown chives are another thing altogether. If you get your hands on chive blossoms, they are edible and add a pop of color to salads. Or try this simple method of preserving: Wait until they open and then pack them into a jar. Add rice vinegar or white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar (!) to top and let it sit for 2 weeks. Then strain and you have a pink-tinged vinegar to add a kick to your next salad dressing. With the green stems themselves...of course they're great on a baked potato, but they also add a fresh onion flavor and bright color to anything that needs a lift. Make a homemade ranch by stirring chopped chives and fresh dill into a mixture of mayonnaise, buttermilk (or yogurt or sour cream), a splash of vinegar and garlic powder, adding salt and pepper to taste. Or make Chive Butter by stirring chopped chives (and a few chopped blossoms if you have them) into softened unsalted butter, lemon zest and sea salt to taste. Refrigerate or form into logs and freeze.

Winter Salad

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I've been working on recipes and tips for all of the vegetables we'll be offering this year and it's obvious from my notes which are the hardest sell; the page for "potatoes" or "cucumber" have very little commentary, while "okra," and "eggplant" are full of my earnest suggestions. Like a mom, I want everyone to love all that we produce and I'm mystified when they don't. How can you reject kale, the green that you can dress hours--even days--in advance and pull from the fridge when you're ready to eat, retaining all it's bright color? And beets, too, which a former customer once described as "earthy" in a tone that suggested what he really meant was "tastes like dirt." My theory with most vegetable aversion is that it comes from eating them after they've sat in a grocery store way too long past harvest or that they've been boiled to complete, tasteless submission. Late last summer, we pulled pounds and pounds of beets from the ground, too many to sell or for any of us at the Farm to eat fresh, and so my mom and I spent an afternoon pickling them. Right now, when everything is grey and we're all craving something vibrant, they are just the thing. In the winter, when citrus is in season and at its best, I like to make this Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette, a perfect complement to both kale and beets:  1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, 1-2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, salt & pepper, 1 cup of olive oil. (Recipe easily halved or doubled)

Convenience

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This summer, Phil and I will be spending time on the Farm in a temporary living arrangement with a tiny kitchen, forcing me to make some decisions about what foods to store. So when I heard about this homemade condensed vegetable stock base on the Splendid Table podcast, I immediately wanted to test it myself. The little jar sits in the freezer and you scoop out a tablespoon to add to boiling water as needed. If I had to make a list of the most vile processed foods, canned stock of any kind would be right up there. Seriously, you might as well scoop out a cup of dirty dishwater and use that instead. Convenience foods that you make yourself when you have the time are not only healthier, they taste like food. Here's some of what you'll find in my regular home freezer: 

1. Chicken stock, frozen in 1-cup, 2-cup and 4-cup portions

2. Pie crust 

3. Fruit Crisp Topping (for making an apple or berry dessert at a moment's notice)

4. Pizza dough (Also raw biscuits/scones, cut and ready to bake)

5. Cherry tomatoes from last summer that I halved and slow-roasted

The pie crust and the pizza dough are especially handy in the summer when you have various CSA items staring at you from the produce bin making you feel guilty; roll out some dough, top with roasted vegetables and whatever bits of cheese you have around...dinner in less than half and hour.

 

Fridge Extras

We've been talking for a while about adding a cooking-focused page to the website and are still mulling ideas as well as a title; "Bites" and "Last Bite" were rejected, the latter conjuring images of death for one of us. So, Another Bite it is for now. Among the dozens of ideas for this page are topics like "My Essential Pantry," "Three Things I Want to Learn to Cook this Year," and "What Cookbooks I'm Reading Right Now." Our hope is that we can pass along our thoughts and inspire you, but we also hope you'll talk back to us. 

To get things started, here is my response to the question, "Name five non-essential things that are always in your fridge."

Lemons REAL lemons, never the bottled stuff. It's amazing how many times a recipe calls for the zest or juice and while it's probably best not to refrigerate them, they keep a pretty long time if you do.

Capers I put these in tuna and egg salad and add them to pasta sauces. They're also good in creamy salad dressings or in a simple butter-lemon sauce for fish or chicken.

Homemade Hot Sauce I have two in there right now, one that's brilliant red and a Habanero one that's bright orange. I'm from Louisiana, so I have to have them for eggs, grits, rice dishes, soups...

Anchovies Heat a few of these in a pan with olive oil, chopped garlic and crushed red pepper and then add broccolini or cauliflower. The anchovies sort of melt into the oil and add a special saltiness, not "fishiness."

Wine I'm not sure this counts as non-essential. For cooking, a Sauvignon Blanc  always works when a recipe calls for "dry white wine." You don't want something with a big personality like an oaky Chardonnay.

--Darlene