Thursday, August 26, 2010

Inspired by the English

A popular traditional English tea sandwich is watercress - a microgreen hailed as a superfood for its high nutritional value. It has a long history in England and many followers, including a website dedicated solely to this food:

My beloved CSA box, which I picked up yesterday, did not include watercress, it did, however, include arugula microgreens. These are in the same family as watercress along with brown mustard and chia. Yes, chia, like the pets. I had no idea what to do with my arugula microgreens. I'd eaten a watercress sandwich and grown a chia pet, but neither of these came to mind as I stared at the little bag of greens with heart-shaped leaves and long thin stems. It was only after I did some research that I figured it out. And since eating a Chia Pet is inadvisable, I made a variation on the watercress tea sandwich:

Arugula Microgreens Sandwich (minus the second slice of bread, which is necessary for elegant eating)

Arugula Microgreens Sandwich
A good snack with a cup of tea.

Spread a light layer of cream cheese on a piece of white bread (I used a thin sliced but chewy Italian) and sprinkle a handful of greens on top. Cover with a second slice of bread. Enjoy.

If you like, you could add cucumbers or butter instead of cream cheese, but I really enjoyed that sandwich. I made a second one as soon as the first was gone.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce

I based this recipe on “Creamy Pasta with Chard and Tomatoes” from the Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition. I made their version a few weeks ago and it was delicious, but I didn’t have chard this week so I made a variation based on the ingredients in my CSA box. As usual, items from the CSA are in bold.


1 T olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 pound green beans, snapped into bite size pieces
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/8 c. basil, shredded
1 c. heavy cream

Sauté garlic, shallots, and green beans in olive oil until shallots are soft and green beans have softened a little. Add tomatoes and basil and cook for about five minutes more. Pour heavy cream over all. Cook until cream bubbles and sauce thickens a little (2-4 minutes). Serve over pasta.

The recipe made about four servings. And I recommend having some bread on hand, as you’ll want to use it to soak up the sauce that pools at the bottom of the bowl. Trust me.

And as you can see, all the ingredients except the olive oil, cream, and pasta were from the CSA. These were all organic brands. A very green meal!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Simple but delicious oven roasted vegetables

When an eggplant presented itself in my CSA box last week, I had a hundred different ideas running through my mind at once: grilled eggplant, eggplant parmesan, lasagne, mixed vegetable sauté over pasta…more recipes than I could ever make with one eggplant.

Ultimately, I decided on the easiest recipe I thought of:

Roasted Eggplant with Potatoes and Onions


1 medium eggplant
3 medium redskin potatoes
1 small to medium red onion
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash eggplant and slice into thick rounds then lay them on a cookie sheet. Wash potatoes thoroughly and slice into rounds – they should be thinner than the eggplant, but not too thin. Layer potato slice alongside eggplant. Peel onion and cut into quarters, divide some slices and layer then between the eggplant and potatoes. It’s ok (even encouraged) to let multiple slices of onion roast stacked together. Sprinkle with salt. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake until vegetables are tender – 20 to 35 minutes depending on your preferences for doneness.

Ready to go in the oven:

Serve with your favorite summer main dish or be a vegetable nerd like me and eat the entire tray as your dinner.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hunting the elusive raspberry (and a cake recipe)

I’ve been more than satisfied with my subscription to Penn’s Corner CSA. Each box has been full of delicious and varied produce from lettuce to cheese to peaches to tomatoes. However, there has been a severe lack of fresh summer berries. I got a couple pints of blueberries in July, but haven’t had a single raspberry. This weekend, I was lucky to be able to satisfy my raspberry craving with a berry-picking adventure at Reilly’s Summer Seat just outside of Pittsburgh.

My boyfriend and I spent a happy hour in the sun picking raspberries from the rows of plants at Reilly’s. At first glance, it doesn’t look like there are many raspberries, but after turning a few leaves (and pricking myself on a couple thorns), I found that first clump of perfect, juicy summer red raspberries. After that, and additional hunting, we easily filled three pints. While we will each be able to eat a pint with ease, I used the third (plus a bit more) to bake a cake with chocolate frosting while it rained on Sunday. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did!

Raspberry Layer Cake with Chocolate-Raspberry Frosting

For the cake:


2 tbsp. butter, softened
2 eggs
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
2 cups fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 375. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

Cream butter, eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to sugar mixture alternately with milk. Pour into prepared cake pans. Sprinkle 1 cup of raspberries over each. Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool before frosting.

Cake ready to go into the oven:

For the frosting:


3 1-oz. squares unsweetened chocolate
1 3/4 c. sifted confectioners' sugar
3 T butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1-2 T milk
½ c. fresh raspberries

Melt chocolate. Remove from heat. Blend in 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk. Stir in butter. Add remaining sugar. Stir in vanilla and raspberries. Add additional milk, if necessary, 1 tablespoon at a time until frosting reaches spreading consistency. (If too thin, add confectioners’ sugar.)

The finished product (minus a couple of slices). It's not the most glamorous cake, but I think the gooey frosting bits and cake crumbles make it look all the more delicious.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Melon Milkshake

Cantaloupe - the summer melon with the intricate latticework rind, usually perfectly round, gives off the defining smell of the grocery store produce section. A fruit I truly dislike.

When my CSA newsletter arrived last Tuesday with the list of what would be in the box the next day, about halfway down the list there was "Watermelon OR Cantaloupe." I was hoping for watermelon. I got cantaloupe.

Ever the optimist, I tried to get excited. My memories of cantaloupe come from breakfast at my grandparents house. Momo would cut thick slices of cantaloupe and then partially-cut perfect cubes of melon in each slice. She and Popo would eat them with salt and pepper. The grandchildren were always offered melon, and I remember tasting it, but choosing the ever-comforting flavor of a banana instead.

One morning last week I decided to find out if my taste buds had changed. After all, I disliked tomatoes as a kid and now they're my favorite summer food. I cut a thick slice of melon, added some salt and pepper, and carved out a bite with my spoon.

Better than I remembered - both sweet and salty. But not for me. At least, not like this. I had almost an entire melon left and needed to find a use for it.

That afternoon, I blended the easiest milkshake I've ever made:

Vanilla ice cream

Blend until desired consistency is reached.

It was delicious. I think I liked it because the melon was so juicy I needed more ice cream than melon to get that good milkshake consistency.

And then I served it like a refreshing afternoon cocktail:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Saturday Morning Peach Muffins

There is nothing more satisfying on Saturday morning than a leisurely breakfast. Something other than the Monday-Friday cereal, toast, or bagel. Last Saturday I got up early to make peach muffins. I adapted the recipe from the Joy of Cooking 75th Edition's recipe for basic muffin batter.

2 c. flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1 c. heavy cream
1/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 T maple syrup
3 large peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut small

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine we ingredients. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients - do not overmix, lumps are okay. Fold in peaches.

Spoon dough into greased muffin cups. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Peach Rhubarb Crisp

When a friend brought dinner over last night, I knew I wanted to make dessert. With peaches left from last week's CSA box, I went for a peach crisp. I felt like there wasn't quite enough fruit in bottom of the pan after slicing the peaches so I pulled some sliced rhubarb from the freezer (I froze it when I was getting more rhubarb than I knew what to do with in my CSA boxes) and added that in, too. The result was my favorite dessert I've made all summer.

5 large peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1/2 c. rhubarb, sliced
2/3 c. flour
2/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 stick butter, cold

Preheat oven to 375.

Place peach slices in an ungreased 8x8 baking dish. Scatter rhubarb slices on top.

Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter with a pastry cutter or fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit.

Bake for 50-55 minutes.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Quick Cucumber Slaw

In last week's CSA box, I was presented with four beautiful cucumbers. While I love cucumbers, this is a lot of cucumbers for one person to munch, especially since this is the first week of the season when I didn't receive lettuce, so my easy "make a salad" standby was lost. I considered freezing two and eating two (like I did with the green bell peppers), but, according to my copy of Joy of Cooking, cucumbers don't freeze too well - at least not in an easy "put on cookie sheet until frozen, then place in labelled plastic bag" kind of way. And I'm far too busy to make pickles.

The idea for the recipe below, Quick Cucumber Slaw, actually came to me in the midst of making Cold Cucumber Soup, also from the Joy of Cooking. I was planning to adapt the recipe slightly to fit the goodies in my CSA box. But I tasted the mix before I got to adding the yogurt and heavy cream and was so pleased with it, I just stopped. Thus, accidentally writing the recipe for this slaw. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. All the ingredients in bold came from one of my recent CSA shares.

Quick Cucumber Slaw

2 medium cucumbers, sliced very thin or shredded
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
1/8 c. fresh basil, chopped
¼ c. chopped walnuts (optional)
pinch salt
black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients, stir, and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours. Serve cold. Makes a good side dish for most summer meals.