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Green Beans with Sundried Tomato Pesto and Charred Cherry Tomatoes

green beans with sundried pesto2Our family was hit hard with the bug. Just like the mighty sequoias we had visited the week before, we went down in a huge way. Standing one moment, felled the next. One after another. It was urgent and devastating and all encompassing, but after we headed into recovery, we all had the same experience: Nothing tasted good. We craved little but water and tea. We checked in with our appetites and reviewed our greatest hits: Lasagna? Meh. Roasted chicken? So complicated. Salad? Forget about it, too much chewing. The one thing we had in common is that everything we tried tasted like cotton candy, cloying and sweet, even without the presence of sugar. The flavor note that finally struck for us was umami.

Umami is that distinct savory, earthy flavor that is found in glutamate-rich foods. We found that miso soup and avocado rolls survived our whacked-out palates, a soup of coconut broth, fish stock, bok choy and packaged potstickers,  and, surprisingly, this dish of roasted green beans, sundried tomato pesto and charred cherry tomatoes.

 

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Green Beans with Sundried Tomato Pesto and Charred Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in half (about 3 cups)

Olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, drained of oil

1 clove garlic

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the green beans on a sheet pan evenly, and season generously with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven, turning occasionally, until the green beans brown slightly and turn bright green, about 20 minutes. Green beans are ready when they are tender, but crisp.

On a separate sheet pan, spread the tomatoes on the pan evenly, and season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until the tomatoes start to char and pop, and the juices start to caramelize, about 30-40 minutes. Shake pan occasionally to redistribute tomatoes and char evenly.

In a food processor, mini prep processor or blender, combine the sundried tomatoes, garlic, thyme, balsamic vinegar along with a glug of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning.

To serve, gently combine the green beans, charred cherry tomatoes and sundried tomato pesto with a set of tongs. Taste for seasoning, place on a large platter and enjoy.

green beans with sundried pesto

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Grilled Zucchini Boats with Rainbow Chard and Turkey

Cooking the rainbow chard ribs and onions to fill the grilled zucchini boats

Need some inspiration? When you’re cooking seasonally, it can be challenging to see the same ingredients at the farmer’s market, but sometimes you have to think outside of the (CSA) box. The items in this recipe could have easily been a pasta sauce or chile, but turned into a one-dish meal, easy to prepare in advance and throw in the oven on a busy week night.

I made several of these zucchini boats to share with my friends

Grilled Zucchini Boats with Rainbow Chard and Turkey

Serves 4

2 large zucchini (or 3 small)

Olive oil, salt and pepper

1 cup diced onion

1 bunch of rainbow chard, ribs torn from the leaves, well washed

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 pound ground turkey

1 teaspoon each of fresh chopped thyme and oregano

1 15-ounce can of organic diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

When you grill the zucchini, just lightly char them.

When you grill the zucchini, just lightly char them

Heat a grill or grill pan. Trim the ends of the zucchini, then split lengthwise into halves. Using a spoon, gently scoop the seeds from the center of the zucchini, being careful not to go too deep or break the “boat.” Season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place zucchini on the grill and cook just to mark with grill marks, then turn to mark the other side. Do not allow the zucchini to soften or overcook. Remove from grill and place in a 9 X 9 baking dish and set aside.

Drizzle olive oil in a large skillet and add onions, cooking at a low heat until onions soften. Meanwhile, slice the ribs from the chard into 1/4-inch slices and add to the onion. Stack the leaves of the chard on top of each other, roll into a cylinder, and slice thinly. Add the chard leaves and garlic to the onion mixture, and cook all of the vegetables together until soft. Add the ground turkey, thyme and oregano, stirring to break up the turkey into small pieces. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, then continue to cook until turkey has browned, stirring occasionally.  Add the canned tomatoes, and stir together, then bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, until the tomatoes start to taste sweet and thicken. Taste for additional salt and pepper.

Drape the turkey sauce over the grilled zucchini

Drape the turkey sauce over the grilled zucchini

Place the turkey mixture on top of the grilled zucchini and top with Parmesan cheese. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to bake the zucchini boats, or heat oven to 350 degrees and bake with an aluminum foil cover for 20 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and continue to bake until the cheese melts and browns, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow the dish to rest for 5 minutes, then serve.

You can turn this into a vegetarian dish by substituting cooked lentils for the ground turkey. Vegan? Leave off the cheese

You can turn this into a vegetarian dish by substituting cooked lentils for the ground turkey. Vegan? Leave off the cheese

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Meyer Lemon and Oregano Roasted Chicken

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I don’t truss my chickens. I know that it breaks cardinal rules of roasting whole birds. Long ago, I learned to truss, and never saw a difference in cooking time, tenderness or flavor, so I stopped. Yes, I prepare my birds with lots of love, massaging them with salt and oil, letting them rest before and after roasting, rubbing them with piquant herbs and ample seasoning. But tying them into straight-laced submission stopped seeming worth the trouble. Now I roast in a whole different, flagrant method: First, I cut out the backbone, and the wings, which I freeze to make stock later. Then I place the bird spread eagle on a flat roasting rack on top of a baking sheet. The chicken roasts more quickly and easily, and it’s easier to cut for serving. Every bit of the bird’s skin is made succulent, crisp and golden, a definite roasting goal and everybody’s favorite.

Meyer Lemon & Oregano Roasted Chicken

I use Meyer lemons in this recipe, but if they aren’t available, any other type of lemon is suitable. If fresh oregano is not available, use a good quality dried oregano and reduce it by half. The chicken cut is similar to a spatchcock method, without being pressed flat, search a YouTube tutorial online if you’d like more information. Chicken cut in this method roast more quickly than whole birds. In addition, taking the chicken out of the refrigerator for 15 minutes brings it closer to room temperature and lessens roasting time. You can use any combination of herbs, such as rosemary, sage, or thyme, and any type of citrus zest, like orange or lime that you wish.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 whole 4-pound chicken

Olive oil, salt and pepper

Zest of one whole Meyer lemon

2 tablespoons of fresh oregano

Directions:

Place chicken, breast side up, on a large cutting board (I prefer plastic so I can wash and sanitize it in the dishwasher.) Remove the wings by cutting at the joint, either with a kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife. Turn the chicken breast side down, then cut along the backbone, either with a pair of kitchen shears, starting at the thigh and working up toward the neck, or using a very sharp chef’s knife. Put the backbone and wings into a plastic freezer bag and freeze to make into stock at another time. Turn the chicken and cut the backbone out on the opposite side. Place the chicken breast side up on a flat cooking rack inserted into a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper, over the skin and underneath the chicken.  Allow chicken to come closer to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 375. Zest the skin of the Meyer lemon, mince the oregano, and distribute over the skin of the chicken, rubbing in to coat the breast, thighs and underside of chicken. Cut the zested lemon into wedges and distribute in the roasting pan. Once oven is heated and the chicken has warmed up a bit, place the chicken in the oven and roast for 75 minutes, or until the skin is brown, the juices between the thigh and breast run clear when pierced with a knife, and the thigh registers at 160 degrees with a probe thermometer.

Remove the chicken from the oven and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Rest for 10 minutes, then slice to serve.

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Valencia Orange, Medjool Date, Feta and Arugula Salad

date salad

Did I mention that I’m a fruit-as-a-savory-ingredient person? When my farm box is packed with greens, citrus and dried fruit, it only makes sense to put them all together.

Valencia Orange, Medjool Date, Feta and Arugula Salad

Ingredients

5 oranges

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

Olive oil, salt and pepper

¼ sweet Maui onion, cut into slices

1 12-ounce bag of washed arugula leaves

1 cup dates, pits removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces

¼ cup crumbled feta cheese (well drained if packed in brine)

Directions:

Cut four oranges into segments by cutting the top portion (about an inch) of the orange off, then the bottom portion (about an inch) and then cutting the skin away from the sides. Cut the orange into slices crosswise, then cut those slices into quarters, removing any seeds and excess pith.

Squeeze the juice from the fifth orange into a large bowl, then add Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper to the juice. Slowly drizzle in ½ cup of olive oil while rapidly whisking the juice, until dressing is combined and thick. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

In a large bowl, mix half of the dressing with the arugula and onion slices, and gently toss together. Layer the oranges, dates and feta cheese on top, drizzling with more dressing, then serve.

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Asparagus, Cherry Tomato, Spring Onion and Basil Frittata

DSC00577It’s been exciting to see the signs of spring in Southern California. In our 68 degree beach weather, the changes are far more subtle than in other parts of the country, but the night jasmine blooms, citrus blossoms scent the air, pops of color brighten garden planters. We see early harvest tomatoes and strawberries, asparagus and spring onions in the farmer’s markets. And we move from hearty stews and soups to lighter fare, like this quick and easy frittata.

Asparagus, Cherry Tomato, Spring Onion and Basil Frittata

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Olive oil

bunch of asparagus, trimmed

1 pint cherry tomatoes

4 green onions, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

salt and pepper

8 eggs

8 basil leaves, torn into pieces

4 slices of fresh mozzarella, 1/4″ thick

Directions: Heat the broiler on high heat. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of olive oil, and add the asparagus, tomatoes and onions. Cook until the vegetables begin to brown, then add the garlic, and continue to cook for another 2 minutes while stirring. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper.

Crack the eggs in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Pour the eggs over the vegetables into the skillet and mix together. Allow the eggs to set, then using a spatula, lift the edges of the cooked egg up and away from the sides, allowing the uncooked eggs to run under. Continue to cook until the eggs are almost set, then top the eggs with basil and cheese. Season with additional salt and pepper, then set under a broiler until the cheese is melted and the top of the frittata is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the cheese to set for about 5 minutes, then cut into wedges to serve.

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Spinach & Carrots

DSC00961This is what you need to eat right now.

Green Lentil and Spinach Soup

Serves 4

Olive oil

2 cups sliced carrots

1 cup sliced celery

1 cup diced onion

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 whole fresh thyme stems with leaves

1 bay leaf

1 15-ounce can diced organic tomatoes with juices

6 cups homemade chicken stock or good quality boxed stock

1 1/2 cup dried green lentils

1 bunch fresh spinach, stems removed, triple washed

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Heat a large stock pot, then add olive oil, carrots, celery, onions and garlic. Cook until vegetables soften, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes. Add the thyme stems, bay leaf and tomatoes, then cook another 5 minutes, until the herbs and tomatoes are very fragrant. Add the chicken stock and lentils, and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Taste the broth for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed. Simmer the lentils for about 20 minutes until they are tender, then stir in spinach leaves until wilted. Pull out the thyme leaves and bay leaves, season with additional salt and pepper if needed, then serve.

Romanesco Cauliflower

DSC00499Mardi Gras approaches, and I’ve turned my farm box into a veggie-centric dish worthy of a bead toss. Oh, and it’s good for you, quick and easy to make. You’re welcome.

Cauliflower Jambalaya
Serves 4
Olive oil
1/2 cup spicy sausage, such as Andouille or chorizo
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 cups blanched cauliflower
1 cup chopped kale
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
1 22-ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
1 cup quick cook brown basmati rice
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Heat oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven and add the sausage. Cook the sausage until it is browned, then remove from the pan and add onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Stir and cook until vegetables are soft, then add the cauliflower, kale, thyme, paprika, cayenne, salt and black pepper, and stir until spices are fragrant. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, Worchestershire sauce, the rice and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper, stir, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 10 minutes and turn off heat, then steam for 5 minutes. Stir in the sausage and parsley, taste the rice for seasoning and serve.

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Stuffed Acorn Squash with Spinach, Fuji Apples and Pomegranates

acorn squash 1

Cooking whole, organic, local ingredients from the farm has so many benefits, especially when I hear hear about how fresh, organic and irresistably prepared produce changes a family’s eating: “I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence and my 3.5 yr old is out growing his picky eater stage, but he has eaten everything you’ve made! Even my husband who usually doesn’t like squash had seconds of the acorn squash the other day! I try to cook with as much organic produce as I can get. He used to scoff at the additional cost, but now thinks he didn’t enjoy veggies as a kid because they weren’t as fresh and organic as what he’s eating now. It was also fun to go to the pumpkin patch at Tanaka Farms and see where our veggies come from.”

Acorn Squash 2

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Spinach, Fuji Apples and Pomegranates
Serves 4
4 acorn squash, cut into quarters, seeds removed
Olive oil, salt & pepper
2 shallots, diced
2 large Fuji apples, cores removed, diced
1 bunch spinach (about 4 cups packed), thoroughly washed
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Heat oven to 375. Place acorn squash on a baking sheet and season generously with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until tender to the probing of a fork. Remove from oven.

While squash is roasting, heat a large skillet and drizzle with olive oil. Cook shallots, stirring occasionally, until translucent, then add apples and cook until browned and juicey. Add spinach to the pan and cook until wilted. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Distribute the spinach mixture on top of the squash and return to oven until the squash and spinach are heated through. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top and serve.

Orzo Salad with Beets & Spinach

Medi Orzo Salad

This pasta salad is always the hit of the party, and makes tasty use of seasonal ingredients. Change up  the vegetables based on what you have on hand; the strong, pure Mediterranean flavors have a talent to pull almost anything off. Lots of lemon zest and juice, briny kalamata olives, and oregano and dill, which so amply grows on the hillsides of that region, work with veggies like peppers, summer squash, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes. I showcased spinach and roasted beets in this version, but you could use whatever the season brings. Except maybe sweet potatoes. That might not work.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Serves 4-6

1 1/2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
2 roasted red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped (or a jar of roasted peppers, drained and chopped)

1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup kalamata olives, drained and roughly chopped

2 lemons, zested and juiced

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons fresh chopped dill

Olive oil, salt & pepper

2 cups chopped arugula or spinach

1 cup roasted beets, cut into medium dice

Bring a large pot of water to a strong, rolling boil, season generously with salt and put orzo in, stirring to prevent sticking. Cook orzo for 8 minutes and drain in a colander, then rinse until cooled under cold water. Drain well, then pour a bit of olive oil and mix well to coat the pasta.

Add the peppers, tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, lemon zest and juice, oregano, dill, salt and pepper and additional olive oil, if needed, to the pasta, and mix well to combine. Gently toss in the arugula or spinach, taste for additional salt and pepper, top with the beets (do not toss into the salad or they will discolor the salad) and serve room temperature or chilled.

Farm Box Day

Purple cauliflower1How could you not revel in the glory of this purple cauliflower? I was so excited to have an opportunity to be so creative this round. With Satsuma tangerines, carrots, romaine lettuce, kale, beets, bok choy, spinach, celery and purple cauliflower, avocado, along with some goodies from the farmer’s market, including Meyer lemons, baby artichokes, Japanese yams, butternut squash, and jalapenos, I prepared: 

Meyer Lemon and Oregano Roasted Chicken with Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Korean Beef Stew with Soy Braised Bok Choy and Celery

Grilled Hand-Made Pizza with Artichoke Pesto, Smoked Gouda and Mozzerella, Caramelized Purple Cauliflower and Kale

 Veggie Chile with Cranberry, Great Northern and Pinto Beans, Roasted Jalepenos and Avocado

Romaine and Roasted Beet Salad with Tangerine Ginger Sesame Dressing