Vegetable Upside-Down Casserole

Tonight’s dinner ended up really delicious, though for a while there, I was convinced it was going to be a fail.

I picked up this book, used, at the local bookstore.

From it, I decided to make the “vegetable upside-down casserole.” For this, one can use basically any combination of veggies that sounds good. I used zucchini, carrots, peas, broccoli, and microgreens. She suggests you sautee them. I was lazy and did not.

To this baking dish of deliciousness, you add a biscuit-like dough, which is supposed to fill in the cracks as it bakes.

It was at this point that I started to worry. The dough didn’t go to the edges! It wasn’t particularly seep-y, so it didn’t seem to be getting down around the vegetable chunks. I was all set to have to pick up sandwiches on my way back from the afternoon’s plans.

Then, this magic happened:

It was delicious. It tasted like a pot pie without a ton of sauce, basically. I’m definitely going to make this again, perhaps with varying combinations of veggies.

Summer Squash Soup

I started off the summer with a brutal cold. Bummer? Yes. Does this happen more summers than I care to admit? Yes.

The Summer Squash Soup from Thug Kitchen made me feel a lot better in the throes of it. It’s super simple, and it’s a great way to use up extra summer squash that are lying around. It freezes well, and my preschooler actually requests it. Winning all around!


Sweet and Sour Beets and Meatballs

I had beets hanging around in my fridge – I got them both in last week’s and this week’s Coeur et Sol share. (Things overlapped a little, since I picked up on Thursday last week, but got my share on Monday this week.) I broke out Skinny Slow Cooker and made a recipe I’d tried once before, and I was not disappointed.

Sweet and Sour Beets and Meatballs with Wheat Berries

Now, of course, I tell you this and then have to explain all of the things I did differently. First, I substituted farro for the wheat berries, since that’s what I had in my pantry. It worked perfectly well. Both are grains that hold up to long cooking times, and both get a chewy, dense texture when cooked down. Second, I omitted the apricots, because I just don’t care for them. Thirdly, I ignored their instructions for the meatballs and made my own turkey meatballs, using garlic chives from my share, parsley from my yard, and a ton of garlic.

The colors are not as vivid in my finished product as in the cookbook. Partly, of course, that’s because the cookbook picture is staged and lit, but a couple of things worked against the coloring of my dinner: half of the beets were golden beets, not red, and the red onions I used were very pale once you got past the first layer, so there was little distribution of the deep red color.

It doesn’t matter. It was still delicious. My picky preschooler even ate an entire serving!

Pancakes, logistics, and real life

Lest you find yourself under the (incorrect) impression that I’m some sort of magical unicorn that can be raising a four-year-old and get everything done that I set out to do…. it’s confession time. My Bloomfield-Montclair share sat in a heavy-duty cooler bag with a bunch of ice packs overnight, and I’m just getting to it now.

And, you know what? That’s okay! Everything is perfectly perky and I actually got to collapse into bed at a reasonable hour. Things will get done today.

I did make pancakes last night with the first bit of my blueberry order. It was an investment in my morning happiness. It was very, very worth it. (Fun tip – if you make the pancakes ahead of time, you can heat them in your toaster in the morning. They freeze well if you want to plan ahead further than just the night before.)

Ever wonder what 20 pounds of blueberries looks like? This. This is what 20 pounds of blueberries looks like.

And, while we’re at it, here’s the share from Chelsa this week. It’s not as great of a picture, because I was rushing.

We had a great opportunity to talk about the fluctuations in the seasons – we’re now hitting the long, hot stretch of the summer where the salad greens taper off for a bit, yet we’re in the brief period before the tomatoes and other deep-summer vegetables have ripened up. It’s interesting to me (though I’m sure frustrating for her) to see the natural progression play out in a small-scale, brand new farm, as opposed to being a little cushioned by the size and experience in Farmer John’s operation. It’s also fun that I get different things from Coeur et Sol than I do from Circle Brook, despite both being North Jersey farms.

This is eating with the seasons. We didn’t always have the option of on-demand access to whatever type of vegetable we desire.  This is part of getting back to eating locally, with the seasons, and sustainably. It often turns out that nature has better ideas in mind than I would have in the grocery store, anyway.

I have some interesting meals planned, so stay tuned.


Blueberry Season

Today is it. Blueberry day.

Bloomfield-Montclair partners with a farmer in Hammonton – the home of the domesticated blueberry – to do bulk purchases of blueberries every year. I am a GIGANTIC fan of blueberries, so I look forward to this with varying levels of mania every year. I feel like I got extra lucky this year; our delivery  usually comes right before July 4th, which usually coincides with our yearly trip down to southern Delaware  with the family. On more than  one occasion, I’ve carted absurd amounts of blueberries down to Delaware and back, simply because we’ve done pickup as we’re pulling out of town.

This year, I have all of the time I need to wrangle the berries. I’m looking forward to it.

Pickup isn’t until 2 pm, so for now, in anticipation, I present photos from a recipe I made over the weekend. I was on the team to provide food at coffee hour this week, so I popped over to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning to buy some blueberries from Ginger. (The farmer who provides our fruit share has a stall at the Walnut Street Farmer’s Market in Montclair. Tree-licious Orchards. Give her a visit if you’re local!) I proceeded to make a Blueberry Buckle.

Shocking to no one, this recipe came from Thug Kitchen. The original calls for blackberries, but at the end, they say you can use any berries you please. I’ve always made it with blueberries, and it’s always come out stunningly well. The cutesy reason for calling this a “buckle,” rather than a cobbler or coffee cake or whatnot, is apparently that there are “so many berries, it’ll make the pan buckle.” Groan.

First, there are the blueberries throughout the batter. I really like the texture this comes out, by the way. The trick seems to be that it’s part oat flour and part regular flour.

Then, you take more berries and sort of lightly smush them into the top of the batter.

Topped with a crust made of all sorts of good things, like brown sugar and oat flour…

Baked until it looks like this little piece of heaven.

Learn from my previous mistakes and put a layer of foil on the rack underneath your baking treat. Blueberry juice boiling over is pretty much inevitable.

The Fennel Problem

Fennel. I never cooked with it before being a CSA member. I’ve only purchased it in a store once. I’ve no overwhelming desire or craving for fennel, yet it comes around a few times a year, every year.

What to do with the fennel?

Years ago, at a women’s meditation retreat, we made a shaved fennel and arugula salad that was delicious. I’m unsure where the recipe came from, but this one is close, if not it.

My primary use for fennel was actually a recipe that I found when looking to use up a surplus of pecans, oddly enough. I give you Sweet Pecan Fennel Soup.

I can’t, for the life of me, find the source for this recipe. I got it off of the internet easily a decade ago, and none of my Google voodoo is bringing it up. If you stumble across this and the recipe is yours, let me know so I can give you credit!

Sweet Pecan Fennel Soup

Serves: 8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

2 large fennel bulbs with stalks, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, chopped
1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, plus more for topping
1/6 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups green tea, brewed
1 tablespoon honey
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt, plus more for topping
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 teaspoon fresh orange juice
1/3 cup pecans, ground

Directions: In a large skillet, sauté white onion and olive oil until caramelized, approximately 5 minutes. Add fennel and leeks; cook for 10 minutes or until soft.

Transfer mixture to a food processor, add remaining ingredients. Pulse until smooth.

Ladle soup into serving bowls. Garnish with additional Greek yogurt and fresh oregano leaves.

And now for my commentary. I’ve made it verbatim in the past, and it’s quite good. This time, I did not have any Greek yogurt in the house, so I used regular, and it came out fine. I also did not have green tea, so I subbed vegetable stock. Also fine. I estimate things like the seasonings (I’ve never seen 1/6 used before, so…) and I use an immersion blender rather than a food processor. It’s much less mess.

This recipe makes quite a bit of soup, and it’s surprisingly filling, so be prepared to package some up for the freezer.

Back from the dead

(Or, at least that’s what it feels like.)

This has been a string of tough days and weeks on the real life front, and my  cooking and blogging have suffered. I hope that this has turned a corner, and we can get back to our regularly scheduled summer abundance.

I’ve been sick for two and a half weeks now, though I’ve finally turned a corner and would call myself “mostly better.” Unfortunately, that meant I was sick throughout a brief family vacation to southern Delaware. I still managed to meet my one cooking goal while down there: Aunt Suzy had commented on how appealing my fritatta recipe looked, and I was able to make one for all of us for breakfast at the condo. I’d forgotten how irksome it is to use unfamiliar pans, but it came out okay, regardless.

I used spinach and garlic scapes from my Bloomfield-Montclair CSA share, and summer squash from Coeur et Sol.

What are garlic scapes, you ask?

Whole, they are long and twisty. This is one cut up into sections. They’re the green part that grows out of the top of garlic. They are like a firmer, garlic-flavored chive. They stir fry well, and they pretty seamlessly go into recipes where you’d use garlic (like this breakfast). They also make a mean pesto, but I can do another post on that, later.

I brought all of both of my shares down to the condo with me. Of course, I ended up trucking quite a bit home, but we did eat Crazy Salad at a few meals.

I kept thinking of this salad as a Tale of Two CSAs. The base salad mix came from Coeur et Sol, but there’s spinach in there from Farmer John. The radishes and kohlrabi were from Chelsa, but the carrots came from Farmer John’s booth at the farmer’s market.

… If you’re asking yourself, “What the heck is kohlrabi?” right now, you’re not alone. Kohlrabi was the first “odd” vegetable I experienced via CSA, and from my google searches in the past, I am not alone.

This pudgy, alien-looking vegetable is Kohlrabi. It also comes in purple, though both are white on the inside. It looks like a root, but it’s actually a bulbous stem. It’s a brassica – related to broccoli and cabbage. (Pro tip: this means the kohlrabi scraps do NOT go in the scrap bag for stock. Brassicas get smelly when they simmer.) One use for kohlrabi (the one Farmer John recommends repeatedly, though I do enjoy roasting) is to use it like jicama. I did just that for the salad, thanks to a grater I found in the condo kitchen.

Honestly, it’s perfectly fine like that. It adds a different texture and layer of flavor to the salad. However, I love cubing kohlrabi and roasting it, often with other root vegetables and a bunch of spices. I did this the previous week, with some radishes.

Yum, yum, yummmmmmm.