Autumn Hash

Now that the chilly, misty mornings that are par for the course for Seattle fall are here, I welcome them for the opportunity for some serious cooking therapy. Today was one of those days, much needed after three weeks of work and family crises. So when my husband took our girls out for a walk, I opted to stay at home, crank up my iTunes library, and exercise my long-ignored creative cooking muscles. In other words, I dived in with very little plan, figuring something will work itself out in the end.

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With tons of potatoes from our CSA, I knew I wanted to make a hash. On my dinner rotation is a hash of crispy potatoes under a mixture of chicken, pesto, mushrooms, and spinach or roasted broccoli, topped with melted cheese.  I automatically took a container of pesto out of my freezer to thaw, but not having many of the other ingredients on hand, I opted to swap the chicken for some apple sage vegan sausage, and took out some kale to add some kind of green vegetable to the mix. While looking in the fridge, I decided to take out some shredded parsnips, leftover from the spiced parsnip babycakes that I was making for a preschool Halloween party because I couldn’t think of what else I would use those for this week.

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I started cooking the potatoes in one pan and the crumbled sausage in the other, but something just didn’t feel right. I needed to edit down my ingredients. I decided to hone in on the sausage and the parsnips because both could have a sweet and savory element that could play off of each other. And after that, things started to click into place. I put away the pesto, figuring that the sage in the sausage would either be overpowered or at the least, get nothing from the basil in the pesto. The kale seemed like one vegetable too many, but that hash could use some more aromatics in the form of leeks and fennel, both sitting in my fridge with no particular plans to use this week. And since the sausage had apple and sage in it, why not add some cheddar to the Monterey jack cheese I was planning for the top of the hash since cheddar is such a natural playmate for those flavors.

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This hash had a great mix of textures: crispy, salty potatoes, parsnip ribbons that were still slightly crisp, gooey melted cheese. There was a hint of sweetness from the parsnips and the apple in the sausage but it was balanced by the boldness of the sage. The adults in our household devoured it– believe me, it’s even better with a drizzle of Sriracha. The kids? Well, not so much: our preschooler ate half of it with minimal prodding, but our 6-year-old barely ate a forkful at lunch and was not pleased when her plate was returned to her as a snack later that afternoon. I know that I said that I would post about what was generally liked by both our kids and my husband and me, but I don’t care– that 45 minutes was the first time in weeks that I felt like myself again and I want to remember that feeling and carry it with me to give me strength when needed.

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Autumn Hash

Ingredients

1.5 lbs potatoes (red skin or Yukon golds)

Olive oil

Canola oil

Apple sage sausage (I used vegan Field Roast, but I bet chicken-apple sausage would be tasty too.)

Half a medium yellow onion, diced

1/2 medium leek, trimmed of dark green and root ends, thinly sliced, and placed in a bowl of water to clean off dirt.

1/4 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced crosswise

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup shredded parsnip (about 1 medium parsnip)

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

salt and pepper

1 cup mix of shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheese

1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Put potatoes in the bottom of a big pot and cover with cold water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Remove the lid and continue boiling for 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. Drain and let cool until you can touch them. Dice potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cover the bottom of a 12 inch skillet with olive oil and heat over medium high until oil is shiny and slick. Add the potatoes and spread them out so they’re in a single layer. Let cook undisturbed for 10 minutes then flip them over with a spatula. Potatoes should be golden brown on one side. Continue cooking undisturbed for another 5-7 minutes, adjusting heat if necessary to keep potatoes from burning. Stir around again, then season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are crispy golden on most sides but still tender in the middle.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of canola oil in another large skillet over medium heat. Crumble sausage and cook until browned. Add diced onion and garlic and cook until onion softens, about 5-7 minutes. Scoop up the sliced leeks so that you leave any dirt behind in the bowl of water and add the leeks and fennel to the sausage and onion mixture. Continue to cook until fennel is softened, another 5-7 minutes. Add the shredded parsnip and mix in, seasoning with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Cook for just 3-4 minutes or until parsnip has wilted slightly but is still crisp tender.

Add the sausage mixture to the potatoes and mix until combined. Top with shredded cheese then bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until cheese has melted. Sprinkle with parsley and serve right away. Who am I to judge if you want to add a fried egg with a runny yolk on top of each serving?

Makes 6 servings

CSA Count: 4 (potatoes, parsnip, fennel, leek)

Kid rating (out of 2 empty plates): 1/2 (1.5 if you count the cleaned plate after what was essentially 7 hours of not eating and bribed with a cracker)

Note for the working parent: You can boil the potatoes the night before, cool them, then store in the refrigerator overnight. Dice up the cold potatoes and proceed with directions as written for a dinner that should come together in roughly 30-40 minutes.

 

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Chorizo & Clam Fettuccine

When my parents come to town, it’s usually late-ish on a Friday night. They haven’t eaten, having waited until they see us to grab dinner, so where do we go? People may not normally think about hanging out in a hipster-filled bar with their parents, but there’s one in West Seattle that is usually our best bet for a good, late night dinner.

One of the things I love to eat there is a dish of Manila clams, steamed in a peppery tomato broth, spiked with pieces of chorizo and slightly thickened with starches from grains of farro that add such a nice texture contrast. Since John and I love the simplicity of a steam clams and loaf of bread meal at home, I thought about how I could change up the flavors of that meal with something inspired by that farro and clam dish.

I started by browning some spicy chorizo sausage, then sautéed some onions, garlic, jalapeno for heat, and fennel in the rendered fat. For added color and sweetness, I added some sliced red bell pepper before throwing in the clams and some chicken stock then closing the lid to the let the clams do their thing. After the clams opened, I tossed the whole mixture with some undercooked pasta to let the pasta finish cooking in the mix of clam juice and stock. For some fresh flavor, I sprinkled some parsley, cilantro and lemon zest before serving. The clams were tender, the peppers were crisp, and I loved the balance of heat and sweet in the pasta sauce thanks to the vegetables. If you make this at home, don’t forget to indulge in carbs, and serve with some toasted garlic bread for sopping up the extra sauce!

Note: As I look back on this, I think I would have played up on the Spanish influences a bit more by swapping out the lemon zest for some freshly grated orange zest instead. For more of an acid taste, substitute a good dry white wine for half of the chicken stock if you wish.

  • 1 lb ground chorizo
  • olive oil
  • 3/4 lb dried fettuccine, cooked about 2-3 minutes shy of al dente
  • 1 medium white onion, halved and then sliced from pole to pole, about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons
  • 1 medium jalapeno, halved lengthwise, then sliced cross-wise into 1/8 inch thick half-moon pieces
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 2 inch long, 1/4 inch thick pieces
  • 1.5 lb Manila clams
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • chopped fresh parsley and cilantro
  • zest of 1 medium lemon, grated

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta while you cook the clams. Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet that has a fitted lid over medium high heat. Add the chorizo and brown thoroughly, about 8-10 minutes. Remove chorizo to a plate, then add onion, fennel, garlic and jalapeno to skillet. Saute until onion is softened, about 5-7 minutes. Season with a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of pepper and the red pepper flakes then add the red bell pepper. Continue to cook until bell pepper softens a little, about 3-4 minutes. Add the clams and the chicken stock then cover with lid. Cook until clams have opened, about 10-12 minutes.

Drain pasta and return to pot. When clams have opened, pour the contents of the skillet into the pasta pot and toss to coat. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until pasta has absorbed some of the clam and chicken broth and is al dente in texture. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper then sprinkle in lemon zest, some parsley and cilantro. Serve in a big bowl topped with additional cilantro and parsley.

Baked Egg Ratatouille

See, now we’re in the troubling time of the year. The temperatures are slowly warming up, the sun is out on a fairly consistent basis, and it’s all troubling because I’m getting impatient. I want it to be summer now. I want summer, not only for the consistent temperate climes, but of course, because I want all that beautiful, bountiful produce to play with. I want to see my kitchen counter brimming with a variety of vegetables, kind of like this:

Okay, so sure, I was able to take this picture only a few weeks ago, but what makes these vegetables different from the ones I’ll get later this summer from the CSA is that they’re just not as flavorful, no matter how pretty they look. So how can I satisfy my craving for summer fresh produce at this time of the year? The answer is a simple one: roasting.

I frequently turn to roasting vegetables for cooking. Roasting may take a little bit of time, but it’s essentially effortless– just toss the chopped vegetables with some olive oil and seasonings, toss the sheet pan in the oven and forget about it for a little while. No standing over the pot fussing. It’s also wonderful for how it deepens the flavor of the vegetables while intensifying the flavors with sweetness and nuttiness as they caramelize.

In this case, I chose to roast only those vegetables that could benefit the most from that technique’s flavor enhancing benefits– the tomatoes and fennel. I sautéed the rest of my vegetables then combined the two sets into a large baking dish to let them cook together in the oven so their juices and flavors could meld. Then, in the last 10 minutes of cooking, I carefully set eggs on top of my ratatouille and cooked them until the whites set but the yolks were still soft. After crisping up some bread flavored with garlic and olive oil, I carefully set a pile of the ratatouille and a soft egg on top of each crouton then sprinkled on plenty of fresh basil, parsley and mint. So colorful, so flavorful, this is a summery meal that is still comforting when the sun deceives you into thinking it’s warmer than it actually is outside.

  • 1.25 pounds (or about 4-5 medium) tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed of the stalks and chopped
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic, minced and divided plus 1 lightly smashed large clove
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 medium eggplant, diced into 1/2 inch thick pieces
  • 1 small sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced into 1/2 inch thick pieces
  • 1 red, 1 green, and 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon each fresh mint, parsley, and basil, chopped
  • 6 large eggs
  • 6 slices crusty bread

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. On a large baking sheet, combine the tomatoes, fennel, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 2 minced garlic cloves, fennel seeds, coriander, and oregano, and toss until the vegetables are evenly coated. Bake for 25-35 minutes then remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use.

While vegetables roast, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. While oil heats, toss eggplant with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. When oil ripples, add the eggplant and cook until eggplant is lightly caramelized and softened, about 7-8 minutes, adding more oil if necessary to keep the eggplant from sticking to the pan. Remove eggplant to a 13 x 9 baking dish. Wipe out skillet with a paper towel, then add another tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. When the oil is hot, add the onion and zucchini and cook for about 4-5 minutes or until zucchini just starts to soften. Add two minced garlic cloves and the bell peppers and cook for another 4-5 minutes or until the peppers soften a little. Add these to the baking dish along with the roasted tomatoes and fennel and toss to combine, seasoning with additional salt and pepper to taste. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 30 minutes.

Set the slices of bread on a baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil, then sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Place sheet in oven and bake along side of the ratatouille for about 15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove the toasted bread from the oven and rub both sides of each slice with the large, slightly smashed garlic clove until the garlic is fragrant. After ratatouille has baked for 30 minutes, carefully crack each egg on top of the ratatouille so that each egg remains separated from one another. Return to the oven and bake for another 10-14 minutes or until whites are set and yolk is starting to firm up but is still soft and gooey. (Bake longer if you want a more done egg.)

To plate, place a crouton in the bottom of a bowl then spoon some of the ratatouille with an egg, making sure to keep the yolk in tact, and place on top of the crouton. Spoon some more ratatouille and the any vegetable juices around the egg and then sprinkle with some of the chopped herbs.

Greens & Cannellini Stew

Italy is this month’s destination over on My Kitchen, My World, and when I think Italy, I think sun, red ripe tomatoes combined with other market fresh ingredients in brightly flavored pasta dishes to go with warm, sunny climes. Too bad it’s one of those windy, rainy, winter in Seattle weeks outside my window right now.

Instead of tomatoes, I have hearty greens like this kale and escarole pictured above. Instead of market fresh ingredients, I have dried cannellini beans. No worries– this is when I have to force myself out of my ideal Italian meal picture and remember that the great thing about Italian cooking is how it moves with the seasons. With the wintery ingredients available to me, I still have the foundation for a beautiful yet hearty Italian meal.

I decided to make a white bean stew with chunks of crisped pancetta, flecks of fennel and celery for sweetness and ribbons of dark, slightly bitter greens for color and balance of flavors. Rosemary and sage were the herbs of choice, adding a woodsy backdrop to the hearty stew. To finish it off, I drizzled heaping bowls of my stew with some white truffle oil and topped them with garlicky, toasted croutons.

I honestly don’t know which was better– the aromas of sage and pancetta cooking (I want to make everything with this combination now!), the comforting heat and soft bubbling sounds while the stew cooked on the stove, or tucking into the stew itself, so soft and creamy, flavorful, and somehow light yet rib-stickisng at the same time. Make this while it’s cold and blustery outside and it’ll feel just like you’re dining at an Italian osteria.

  • 1 lb dried cannellini beans, soaked over night in a pot filled with 4 quarts of water in which you’ve dissolved 3 tablespoons of table salt.
  • 1/4 lb of thick sliced (about 1/4 inch) pancetta, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, chiffonade, divided
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium ribs of celery, diced
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock plus 4 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 medium bunch lacinato kale, leaves removed from stems and chopped
  • 1 medium bunch escarole, chopped
  • salt and pepper

Garnish

  • 1/2 loaf day old Italian or ciabatta bread, torn into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 smashed garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper
  • white truffle oil

Heat olive oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the pancetta and 1/2 tablespoon of sage and cook until pancetta is crisped, about 15 minutes. Remove pancetta to a paper towel lined plate to drain and set aside. Pour off fat in pot, leaving about 2 tablespoons for cooking.

Add the onion, fennel, celery, and garlic and cook until softened, but not browned, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse beans then add them to the pot along with stock, water, bay leaf, rosemary, and remaining 1/2 tablespoon of sage. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, simmering for 1.5 hours. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the kale and escarole. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

After you’ve added the kale and escarole, make the croutons by heating olive oil with the smashed garlic cloves in a medium skillet over medium heat. Toast garlic on both sides until golden brown, being careful not to burn them then remove from the skillet and discard. Add the torn bread, tossing to coat in the hot oil and cook until toasted, about 10-12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Plate stew in bowls, topping with a sprinkle of pancetta, a handful of croutons, and a drizzle of truffle oil if you have it on hand.

CSA Count: 5

Sweet onion, fennel bulb, lacinato kale, escarole, garlic

Garden Count: 3

Rosemary, sage, bay leaf

Smorrebrod

Smorrebrod! I just like saying it– smorrebrod! And if you’re John, you’ll reply, “Gesundheit.”

The challenge destination from My Kitchen, My World this month is Denmark. I admit to having to do an internet search of Danish food to get some ideas of what I might do. I could have taken the easy way out and written a post about a danish (as in your coffee and) inspired apple tart that I have in the hopper, but that seemed, well, like copping out.

Instead, I decided on doing smorrebrod, or Danish open-faced sandwiches. Smorrebrod is traditionally a slice of dark rye bread, spread with bits and pieces of things you might have had in your dinner the night before such as liverwurst or smoked fish. It’s economical since you not only used up leftovers but the bread was your plate which you could eat instead of cleaning. Smorrebrod has greatly evolved as the list of acceptable ingredients– poached lobster, seafood cakes, crisp vegetables– has grown, and now it seems to be just as much about color and plating as it is about taste. I decided that this would be a fun and challenging post topic, an excuse to play with my food and work on my plating skills.

That was before I learned that smorrebrod is serious business. Traditional ones are complicated with a long list of rules governing everything from what ingredients are to be paired together to the order in which you eat them. Well, no offense to the Danes, but I decided to cast tradition aside, putting together my sandwiches with what I had on hand and what sounded good to me.

I decided to make two different kinds of smorrebrod: a roasted vegetable on a lemon zest and dill cream cheese spread and tender pieces of steak on a bed of watercress paired with a stone ground mustard, butter, and truffle salt spread. Both were served on dark rye as I was not crazy enough to buy two different kinds of bread.

If you’re a traditionalist though, you can find so many delicious sounding recipes here. Really, I say put together whatever you want on your smorrebrod and follow tradition by following my simplified rules: 1) it tastes good, 2) it’s texturally interesting, and 3) it looks pretty. Oh, and add a 4th rule: drink some aquavit being sure to say, “Skol!” first.

Note: To make the beef smorrebrod a little more authentic, add some horseradish to the spread. These recipes make 4 smorrebrod each. They of course make great regular sandwiches– I had the best lunch yesterday combining my leftovers into a beef, watercress, roasted fennel and roasted tomato sandwich.

Roasted Vegetable Smorrebrod

  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed of stems and tough outer pieces, then cut into wedges
  • 6 large cherry tomatoes, halved
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 slices dark rye bread, trimmed of crusts
  • 3 oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Hold the zucchini next to a slice of bread and cut the zucchini to the same length. Then slice the zucchini lengthwise into quarter-inch thick slices, about 1 inch wide. Do the same with the eggplant.

On a foil lined baking sheet, spread out the zucchini and eggplant slices. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. On a second foil lined baking sheet, spread out the cherry tomatoes and fennel bulbs. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place both sheets in the oven on racks placed in the center of the oven and roast for 20-24 minutes or until zucchini and eggplant are tender and lightly browned and tomatoes are wrinkled and juicy. Set aside to cool.

While vegetables roast, mix together the cream cheese, lemon zest, and dill in a bowl. When vegetables are cool to touch, spread the cream cheese mixture from edge to edge on each slice of rye bread. Shingle the eggplant and zucchini together so that they look like vertical stripes, I was able to fit 2 slices of each on my bread. Slice the fennel into slivers and place a few slivers in the center of each vegetable smorrebrod, topped off with 2 or 3 tomato halves.

Beef and Watercress Smorrebrod

  • 16 oz bone-in rib eye steak
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided and at room temperature
  • olive oil
  • truffle salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
  • 1 bunch watercress, leaves removed from stems
  • 4 pieces dark rye bread, crusts removed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter over medium high heat. Sprinkle both sides of the steak with a couple of pinches of truffle salt and about 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. When the fats in the pan ripple and smoke a little, add the steak, cooking for 3-4 minutes or until browned on one side. Flip it over and place skillet in the oven, cooking for 12-15 minutes for medium rare or until an instant read thermometer reads 125 degrees F. Remove to a plate and let rest for 15 minutes.

Mix together the remaining 3 tablespoons of softened butter with the mustard and another pinch of truffle salt. Spread from edge to edge on each piece of rye bread. Place a small handful of watercress leaves on top of each slice. Cut the steak on a bias and against the grain in slices about 1/4 inch thick. Place about 4-5 slices on a diagonal on top of watercress.

 

Spiced Butter Beets

One of my favorite days from this past summer was when John and I used a Groupon for one of our favorite restaurants downtown then went to the New Pornographers concert which was just a couple blocks away. Delicious food followed by live music from one of my favorite bands– it’s hard to think of a more perfect evening.

At dinner, John and I shared a small plate of spiced beets. The beets were presented simply on a white, rectangular dish, garnet red with a sweet and spicy sauce. John and I tried in vain to figure out the spices, but I think my best guest might be that it was an apple cider reduction. With beets aplenty from the CSA, I thought of the beets from that night and set out on making a sweet and spicy beet dish of my own.

Only my dish? Not as simple. I had my heart set on using toasted walnuts and flecks of creamy, tangy blue cheese as I thought that those elements would have added texture to the dish of beets we ate that summer night. And as always happens when I cook beets, I saw the lonely, discarded green tops and thought, well, why not add them as a bed for my roasted beets since they would add color and a subtle, woodsy flavor. The CSA also gave us a large fennel bulb, so I sliced it and roasted it along side of the beets figuring that it’s sweet, nutty, licorice flavors would pair nicely with thebeets. As for the sauce? Well, rather than buy apple cider, my thoughts went to this spice butter recipe, one that I had obsessed about during the summer.

In the end, I had quite the complicated composed beet salad, and although Tim Gunn’s voice saying, “You need to learn to edit!” was repeating itself over and over again in my head, this jumbled mess was super delicious. The beets were sweet and firm and matched beautifully with the warm, browned butter that prickled with heat and delicious aromas from cinnamon, coriander, and ginger. The shallots that cooked in the butter were crispy and matched the hearty crunch of the toasted walnuts. And although it added yet another layer to my complex salad, the chopped fresh cilantro added the perfect amount of bright, green flavor to tie everything together.  I do love simplicity, but in this case, I had a fine mess that was, well, a very fine mess.

  • 3 medium ace beets
  • 1 large fennel bulb, sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon of each of the following: ground ginger, ground coriander, ground cinnamon, cayenne pepper and paprika
  • a pinch each of red pepper flakes and ground turmeric
  • chopped beet green tops
  • 1 large clove of garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
  • 2 oz crumbled blue cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut beets in half lengthwise and place on a large piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Place thyme sprigs on top of beets then wrap foil tightly around the beets.

Spread fennel pieces out on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix the fennel around to coat each piece. Bake the fennel and the beets in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until beets are easily pierced with a paring knife and the fennel is light brown at the edges (note– fennel may be done sooner than beets so check on them around 30 minutes.) Remove from oven and set aside.

While the vegetables are roasting, make the spiced butter. Add the butter and olive oil to a small skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots soften and butter browns a little. Stir in the spices and season with a pinch of salt. Keep warm on low heat until ready to use.

While butter and shallots cook, saute the beet greens. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the smashed garlic clove in a medium skillet over medium heat. When garlic has lightly toasted on both sides, remove the clove and add the chopped beet greens. Saute until greens are tender and wilted, about 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, plate the greens then layer the beet and fennel slices on top. Pour on the spiced butter with the shallots then sprinkle with walnuts, blue cheese and cilantro.

CSA Count: 4

Ace beets, fennel bulb, cilantro, shallot

Minestrone

I think that for the most part, we Americans tend to take minestrone for granted. It’s that cup of tomato and pasta soup that you get because it sounds better than a plain iceberg lettuce salad before the giant plate of pasta arrives. No biggie, right?

Wrong.

Minestrone has many variations and should be appreciated for its complex layering of flavors. Additionally, as someone who gets a thrill out of cooking with what I have on hand, minestrone has an extra appeal to me: it’s historically a soup made from leftover ingredients gathered for other meals made in the week.

In my case, minestrone was the tastiest thing I could think of when looking at the vegetables given to me. That’s another reason to love minestrone– like the best of Italian foods, it capitalizes on what’s seasonal and fresh in flavor. In fact, making minestrone was practically instinctual. One look at the bunches of carrots, large fennel bulb, bunch of parsley, and most importantly, pound of long, flat Roma beans, and I instantly knew that a thick, tomato based soup, chock full of these vegetables, cannellini beans, and tiny orzo pasta was in my immediate future.

Now minestrone can be vegetarian, but it can also be made with thick pieces of smokey ham, tender shreds of beef, or in my case, wonderfully salty pancetta. With tons of fresh sage in the garden, I added this as well, figuring that the woodsy flavor would add complexity to my broth. Might I add, if you haven’t experienced it for yourself, that there are few more mesmerizing aromas in the world than the scent of sage frying with pancetta? Oh such heaven should not be missed!

I cooked the pancetta and sage, letting the fat render to add more flavor to my soup, then removed the pieces to drain on paper towels. I poured off some of the excess fat and then tossed in my onions, fennel, celery, yellow squash, and carrots, letting them gently sweat but not brown. A couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and a parmesan cheese rind added flavor and body to the soup. All that was left to do was add my chopped Roma beans and diced red potatoes, a can of white beans, and a sprinkle of orzo, then let everything simmer together in a mix of crushed tomatoes and chicken stock.

Well one other thing remained– I baked a big crusty loaf of garlic bread to serve on the side. When the soup was ready, I ladled it into bowls, gave them a heavy dousing of shaved parmesan cheese, and served it along side of a couple of slices of bread for dunking. This soup was rich and comforting, warming on the first early fall, chilly evening that we had out here. Yet it doesn’t weigh you down since it’s so full of light, vegetable flavors. Now that we’re well into fall and most places are still experiencing the joy of peak vegetable harvests, make a giant pot of minestrone and settle in for an evening of comfort.

  • 1/4 pound pancetta, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices then diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (yields 1.5 teaspoons)
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 large ribs of celery, diced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 3 small yellow summer squash, chopped into half moons
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • rind from parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 pound Roma beans, chopped into 1/2 inch wide squares
  • 3 medium red skin potatoes, diced
  • 1/3 cup orzo pasta
  • 15 oz can cannellini beans
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • grated parmesan cheese and chopped fresh parsley for garnish

In the bottom of a large soup pot, add the tablespoon of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the diced pancetta and sage and cook until pancetta is crisp. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate to drain and pour off any excess fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pot. Add the onion, carrots, celery, fennel, garlic, and yellow squash, stirring occasionally, reducing heat if the pancetta fat was really hot in order to avoid browning the vegetables. You want them to sweat and get tender, cooking for a total of 8-10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste so that all the vegetables are covered. Add the chicken stock and crushed tomatoes then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer before adding the cheese rind, cannellini beans, Roma beans and diced potato. Simmer for 20 minutes then add the orzo, oregano, red pepper flakes, and the reserved pancetta, then cook for an additional 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste before ladling soup into bowls, topped with a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan and chopped parsley.

CSA Count: 9

Sweet onion, fennel, yellow carrot, orange carrots, garlic, Roma beans, yellow squash, parsley, red skin potatoes

Garden Count: 1

Sage