Things are a tiny bit crazy around here . . .

I’m getting ready to head out for a convention, and haven’t even BEEN tot the Market, let alone been cooking.  I’ll post as I can, but there might be  short hiatus until early April . . .


Recipes from the Farmers’ Market: Beet Greens!

Remember Wednesday’s recipe for beets?  Don’t throw the green tops away!!  I actually made the tops before I made the beets themselves, and truthfully, although I enjoyed the beets, I liked the greens EVEN BETTER.  Plus they were dead easy to fix.

Beet greens – I used greens from 2 large bunches of beets
1 Tbs olive oil (or 1/2 Tbs oil and 1/2 Tbs butter)
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon juice from 1 lemon, optional

The Recipe
Clean and chop the greens.  The fastest way to do it is to fill a sink with water, chop the greens off the beetroots about 1 or 2 inches from the beetroot, and dump all the greens in the sink.  Swish them around to get all the dirt off (the dirt will sink, so you don’t have to do any real messing around). Don’t bother drying them off when you pull them out of the water; just toss them into a big bowl.

To chop them, cut out the middle rib (it’s tough and not very tasty), and slice up the leaves into rough pieces.  (They don’t have to be small; the greens will cook down so much that the size of your bites will be fine in the end.) 

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or saucepan.  Add the greens in batches, turning to wilt them and adding more as there’s room.  (I use tongs for this – WAY easier than a spoon.)  Once all the greens are in there, reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Remove the lid, and stir the greens.  They should be pretty wilted.  I like mine with some resistance in the bite, but taste the leaves and see if you want to cook them a little more.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add some lemon juice (if you’re using it) and taste again.

Aaaaaand, you’re done!

How did it go?
Holy cow, this was SO GOOD.  The only bad part was that all those greens cooked down to about 2 cups.  So it wasn’t a whole lot of food in the end.  But the taste was amazing.  I know this doesn’t SOUND appetizing, but if dirt tasted good, it would taste like this.  It was sort of salty (even before I added salt), and mineral-y and had a sharpness to it that was tempered by a very vague hint of beety sweetness.  These are going to be my new favorite greens, right next to kale.  The only downside is that I like these a LOT better than the actual beets . . . but they come attached to the dang beets.  So if I want more greens, I think I have to eat more beets.  *sigh*

Recipes from the Farmers’ Market: Roasted Beet Salad

I made beets this weekend – turns out I like them!  I kind of remembered liking them when I was little, but hadn’t eaten them in years, so I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d *still* like them.  Tastes change and all that (I still can’t figure out how I used to eat raw onions like apples – true story).  But beets are still QUITE tasty.  Unfortunately, they also make your hands look like Lady MacBeth.  So wear rubber gloves!  Or do like I did, and use some sandwich baggies over your hands when you realize you’re starting to look like an axe murderer.  Just be careful when you’re chopping the beets, because the baggies reduce your dexterity SIGNIFICANTLY.  But better to chop slooooowwwwwly than to chop off a finger, right?  RIGHT.  (Especially because you’d have a hard time distinguishing your blood from beet juice.  I’m just saying.)

This recipe was actually just OK on the first pass.  After my guests left though, I started messing with it, and ended up liking it a LOT better.  That’s the version below.

6-8 beets
Olive oil, for tossing
Juice from 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, FINELY minced (or 1/4 tsp garlic powder, which is what I ended up using)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tbs mustard (Yellow works fine, but Dijon is EVEN BETTER.)

The Recipe
Wash the beets.  Trim off all the greens, leaving about 1 inch of stems on the beets.  Cut off the long root at the bottom.  (Optional: hang on to the greens for Friday’s recipe – they are AMAZING.)

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Coat a large sheet pan (a rectangular cake pan), with non-stick spray (or use a non-stick pan).  Wrap each of the beets in a square of aluminum foil, leaving the top part open.  Set them upright in the pan, and roast in the oven about 45 minutes, or until you can pierce them easily with a fork.  Set aside and allow to cool.

Using your hands, rub the skin off of the beets.  DON’T FORGET THE GLOVES.  (I also recommend an apron here.  You do NOT want to mess around with this juice – it stains EVERYTHING – and they WILL be juicy.)  It’ll be really easy – it feels kind of weird, though.  I was expecting something like potato skins, and even considered not removing the skins, but I’m glad I did.  They’re NOT like potato skins at ALL – they’re more leathery and . . . well, they seem like they’d be tough to eat.  They also made me think of little lizards – not exactly appetizing.  (Sorry for that image.  Go scrub your brain with bleach now.  I’ll wait.)

Chop the beets into bite-size pieces (whatever that means to you).  Put them in a bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients.  Use the oil sparingly, and add more as you toss to combine.  (Toss GENTLY – that whole juice thing . . . )  You might also want more mustard – I found that I liked it better with extra mustard, because the sharpness of the mustard offset the sweetness of the beets.  I thought about adding sliced red onion, which would have been good, but frankly didn’t want to mess around anymore. 

How Did it Go?
Surprisingly well, all things considered.  Initially I just had olive oil, salt, pepper and a little lemon juice in there, and it wasn’t really enough oomph.  But the mustard and garlic powder took it from “ok” to “good.”  I think red onion would push it right into “great,” but like I said – I was tired of messing around (plus I had some errands still to run that day).  😉  But I’ll definitely make them again – even though I have to be careful of that freakin’ juice. 

(A word to the wise, though.  This is probably WAY too much information, but you should know, just in case you don’t already: after you’ve eaten beets, they’re pretty much the same color going OUT as they were going IN.  If you know what I mean.  So don’t worry; you’re not dying.  You’re just eating beets!!  Fun, fun, fun . . .  After that information, I hope you kept the brain-bleach handy.)

Eating from the Farmers’ Market: Week 10

I’d been feeling sort of cranky and out-of-sorts about this project for about 10 days (last week and part of the week before), and I couldn’t figure out why.  But over the weekend, while I was at the Market, it hit me: I was tired of trying to fix “main” dishes.  I’d been trying to figure out meals according to the usual American standards: one “anchor” dish (usually meat), with a side or maybe two.  In absence of that, I’d rely on pasta dishes, which are more culturally acceptable as “one-dish-wonders.”  And I realized that when I first started doing this, without regard to what the recipes would look like, and whether or not there would be a balance of meaty “mains” and non-meaty “sides,” my eating habits started to change.  Not in the usual “diet-y” sense, but more in how I was structuring my meals.  When I cook without trying to figure out how to squash all the ingredients into a main dish, I end up with a lot more variety in my diet.  I also end up eating antipasto-style all the time.

For instance, instead of chicken with potatoes and some broccoli, I’m more likely to eat a helping of roasted beets, half an artichoke and some sauteed cabbage.  If I toss the beets in olive oil and use a creamy dipping sauce for the artichoke, it fills me up enough that I’m not hungry again in half an hour.  Likewise, if I need something even more substantial, it’s easy to cook some pasta and toss that in with the veggies.  The upshot is that although I’m not focusing on eating less meat, more veggies, etc., I end up doing it, anyway.  So with that in mind, this week I’m going back to fixing things that seem more like side dishes, and not worrying about it if I feel short on “traditional” American main dishes.  🙂

And at the Market this week, I bought:
1/2 chicken – $4.75/pound = $11.50
Ground beef – $7/pound = $7
Napa Cabbage – $3/ea = $3
Snap Peas $2/bag (about 8 oz) = $2
Beets (with greens attached) $1.50/bunch x 2 = $3
Eggs – 1 doz. @ $2.25
Artichokes – 2 @ $3/ea = $6
Apples – $2.00/lb = $2.90

I also headed over to the regular grocery store to buy organic butter, and olive oil and grapeseed oil in glass bottles.  (The glass is important – more on that later.) 

So the week overall was kind of pricey, but I’ll be able to fix a lot more stuff.  I roasted the beets, and they were just ok, but I was able to punch them up with some added ingredients after the fact.  I was going to stir-fry the cabbage and peas, but ended up with a mini-disaster.  I did manage to save it, and I’ll eat it, but it wasn’t great: the flavors were good, but it ended up overcooked.  😦  Artichokes are easy: just steam them and dip in sauce!  And I sauteed the beet greens (instead of throwing them away) – they were AMAZING (I kind of liked them better than the beets themselves), and I’ll share that recipe, too.

Recipes to come on Wednesday!!

Recipes from the Farmers’ Market: Roasted Chicken and New Potatoes

Roasted chicken is one of those things that I always manage to forget my love for.  I mean, I know I love it, but I tend to forget the whole EXPERIENCE of roasted chicken until I have one cooking away in the oven, crackling and making the house smell like herbs and garlic and chicken and home.  I LOVE it, ok?  And potatoes . . . well, words cannot describe my love for the potato in all its forms.  (I actually don’t keep many in the house because I will make myself SICK on mashed potatotes.  For real: I’ll eat them 3 meals a day if given the opportunity.)

So, I decided to roast that 1/2 chicken and the little potatoes I’d bought at the Market a couple of weeks ago.  (The chicken has been in the freezer, don’t worry.)  And I had some fresh herbs in pots outside, so I raided those.  But if you don’t have fresh herbs, don’t worry: dried will work fine.  🙂

1/2 roast chicken, about 2 pounds (or 1 whole chicken, butterflied – see below – in which case, double the rest of the ingredients.)
small potatoes, about 1 pound
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
salt to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
Rosemary: either 1/3 cup fresh or 2 Tbs dried
Sage: either 1/3 cup fresh or 2 Tbs dried, crushed OR 1 Tbs dried, ground

The Recipe:
Preheat the oven to 325F (for pastured chicken) or 350 (for “regular” chicken).  If you’re butterflying a chicken, here’s how:  place the chicken breast side down on the cutting board.  Using some REALLY sharp kitchen shears (poultry shears are even better), cut out the backbone.  Turn the chicken breast side up, and spread it as wide as you can.  Place your hand right between the breasts and press down until you hear the sternum crack.  (I know, I know, it’s gross.  But worth it!  This will let you lay the chicken flat in a large pan, and will cut down the cooking time by at least half.)  That’s it – it’s butterflied!

Put all the butter in a cup and stick in the microwave just long enough to soften, but not melt, it.  (It took about 12 seconds for me.)  Mash the garlic and herbs into the butter. 

Lay the chicken in the pan, and using your fingers, peel away as much of the skin as you can: don’t remove it completely, just make a pocket.  Stuff about half the butter-herb mixture under the skin of the chicken, as deep and in as many places as you can (the thighs can be kind of tough, and I just forget about the wings). 

Clean the potatoes and scatter them around the chicken.  Put the remaining butter mixture back in the microwave and melt it.  Pour it over the potatoes, and stir them as best you can, so they’re all coated.

Cook the chicken as follows:
For pastured chicken (which cooks quicker), cook at 325F for about 40 minutes, then turn the heat up to 350 and cook another 10-15 minutes (for crispy skin).
For “regular” chicken, cook at 350F for about 45 minutes, then turn the heat up to 375 and cook another 15-20 minutes. 

That’s it!  I try to let it cool before I inhale it, but I have to admit that the skin is AMAZING while it’s still hot enough to scorch your mouth.  😉 

This won’t need anything fancy to serve with it: just a green salad and maybe some toast or a roll.  (And of course, you’ll have the amazing leftovers for sandwiches or shredded chicken salad later!!) 

Shopping at the Farmers’ Market: Week 9

Well, this weekend, to make up for the hail last weekend, it was 80 degrees Farenheit, and people were out in FORCE.  It was totally packed at my market on Saturday. 

I picked up a few things, but also knew I still had some stuff at home.  So my “cart” looked like this:

Eggs, 1 doz @ $2.25
Onions, 2 lbs for $4 total
Artichokes, 2 LARGE ones for $6 total
Apples @ $3/lb = $3.50

And that was it.  I had some pasta still leftover from last week, and I decided to roast that half a chicken and the potatoes (Wednesday’s recipe).  I’ll steam the artichokes and probably eat one of those for lunch with a little mayonnaise (homemade, and I think I finally figured out a recipe that I like, so I’ll share that soon). 

I’ve got a little celery left at home, and might try making a salad with celery and sweet onions.  I saw a recipe for it, and I’m thinking I’ll alter it and see what happens.  I’m not at ALL sure about the raw onions, but maybe if I soaked them first to take out some of the bite . . . ?

And I still have those darn radishes, so I’ll fix those, too.  Also, remember all that chard I bought?  I saved the stems.  Apparently you can make salad with them, so I’m going to mess with that, and I’ll let you know what happens.  (I’m highly dubious about this one, but since I would have thrown the stems out anyway, I figure there’s nothing to lose, right?  Well, maybe a little dressing, but other than that, nothing.  ;D)

I did buckle yesterday and buy some sugared creamer, though (from the regular grocery, obviously).  Every once in a while my sweet tooth rears its head (at least once a month!), and I want some freakin’ sugar.  So that’s stashed in the back of the fridge, and I’ll end up using the half-and-half (organic, not raw) for something else.  Maybe I’ll make Onion Pie . . .

Recipes from the Farmers’ Market: Mushroom and Asparagus Toss

A couple of weeks ago I bought some mushrooms (from the regular grocery, I’ll admit) and asparagus (from the Market).  But I bought too much food in general that week, and they sat longer than they should have.  By this last weekend, the asparagus was dried out and the mushrooms were ALLLLLMOST yucky.  But I’m trying really hard not to waste food.  So!  I roasted them!  I wasn’t sure what I would do with them afterward, but knew that roasting would buy me a few more days before the vegetables died completely.  As it turned out, I tossed them with some pasta, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella tonight, but I could also have mixed them into some eggs for a frittata.  So I have two recipes tonight: the mushrooms and asparagus, and the pasta toss.  You can cook them at different times or all together, and it will work just fine. 


20 oz sliced mushrooms
2 small bunches of asparagus, broken into smallish pieces
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

The Recipe:
Preheat the oven to 375F.  Toss all the ingredients together and cook uncovered, stirring once, until the mushrooms are brown and the asparagus look dried out, about 45 minutes.

On to the next!  Now, had I known I was going to put those in the pasta, I would have also tossed in some garlic.  I ended up adding garlic powder to the pasta after it was all said and done, but that’s really not the same.

1 batch Mushroom and Asparagus Roast
8 oz dried whole-wheat pasta, long-cut (I used spaghetti, but any long-cut pasta will do.)
4 oz Mozzarella, cut into pieces
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped (or buy one of those little jars that are already julienned)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste

The Recipe:
If you’re making it all at once, start with the Roast recipe above, but add 2 cloves minced garlic.  After that’s been in the oven about 20 minutes, heat the water for pasta and bring it to a boil.  Add a generous amount of salt (don’t skip this step; it really DOES make a huge difference, especially with whole-wheat noodles) and the pasta.  When it’s done, grab 1/4 cup of the cooking water out of the pan with a glass measuring cup, and dump the pasta into a colander.  Don’t rinse it; put it right back into the pan, and toss the cheese, tomatoes and Roast in there.  Toss it all together, and taste.  Add salt and pepper (and garlic powder, if you didn’t add the garlic to the Roast).  Add some olive oil, a couple of tablespoons at a time, and a little cooking water until you get a consistency and flavor you like. 

If you like, you can top it with a little Parmesan cheese and some red pepper flakes.  YUM. 

How Did it Go?
Better than I expected, actually.  Not as good as the chard pasta, but still good.  I think if I had leftover mushrooms and asparagus again, I might also try putting them in some eggs and milk and baking them up like a quiche.  In that case a mild white cheddar (and maybe a little Dijon mustard) would be amazing mixed in.  You could also just serve the roasted veggies alongside a piece of steak, chicken or fish, with a little cheese sprinkled on top.  Served warm, they might also be good spooned over some salad greens, with the pan juices as a dressing (although that one might need a little salt), and a glass of white wine.  Lots of options on this one!