Wild Leek and Morel Quiche

Eric and I started looking for wild morels last week. We started out at the hot spot we discovered late in the season last year, but we didn’t find anything. That was Wednesday. Meanwhile, our friend Scott McEnaney found 30 morels.

Friday I scoped out another area, only to get skunked again. On Sunday, Eric and I went back to the location I scouted Friday, and we hit the jackpot: We picked 19 morels—a combination of black morels and blond morels. Eric spotted them first, then I started eyeing them. 

I discovered this productive spot while hiking with Toby last fall. Of course, there weren’t any morels then, but there were a lot of ash trees, which, I’m told, is a good sign if you want to find morels in the spring.

While we were foraging for morels, we also picked a bunch of wild leeks. With our bounty, I made a tasty wild morel and wild leek quiche for dinner last night. The April 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living included a recipe for a scallion and wild morel quiche, but I found it a tad too complicated for dinner on a Monday night. So I adapted Martha’s recipe and another quiche recipe to make my special wild leek and morel quiche. Recipe after the jump. Continue reading

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Clear Brook Farm Reinvents the CSA

Though I still have items from my winter CSA with Clear Brook Farm in my basement (specifically, garlic shallots, popcorn and beets) and the ground remains covered in snow, it’s time for me to consider purchasing a summer share. 

Last week I received an e-mail from Clear Brook Farm announcing its first-ever summer CSA program. Unlike traditional CSAs where participants are handed a box of pre-selected produce each week, Clear Brook Farm’s new summer share program will allow customers to select exactly what they want, when they want it. It is the most flexible, convenient, economical and customer- and community-focused CSA that I’ve ever heard of.

Here’s how it works: When you sign up for the CSA, Clear Brook Farm sets up a gift card for you in the amount of the share you’ve selected (i.e., $250 for a small share or $450 for a large share).  You then use that gift card ANYTIME you want to shop at Clear Brook Farm, and you can apply it toward the purchase of ANYTHING that Clear Brook Farm sells–potted plants, local meats and cheeses, ice cream, pastries, produce, you name it.

To encourage customers to purchase summer shares, Clear Brook Farm is offering a credit: Depending on the size of the share you choose and when you sign up for it, you can get an extra $10 to $30 added to your gift card.  It’s their own little economic stimulus plan, and it’s really innovative.

The revenue Clear Brook Farm generates through the CSA helps the farm cover its start-up costs for the season. It also enables Clear Brook Farm to give low-income families in the community access to fresh, local organic food.  From Clear Brook’s e-mail: 

With every 15 full shares purchased we will donate a $225 share to a low income, local family. Through the Northeast Organic Farmers Association’s program, we will identify and  provide a share to a low income family in our community that can be used to purchase produce or vegetable starts from our farm.

Although I’d like to purchase a large share, I unfortunately can only afford to plunk down $250 for the small share. Large shares cost $450, and even $250 remains a sizable sum to front all at once. (That’s why I so appreciated the payment plans Clear Brook offered to customers for its 2009 winter CSA.)

Still, the 250 clams are for an excellent cause, and I look forward to using that gift card once Clear Brook Farm’s produce stand opens mid-June. I usually spend about $30 per week at Clear Brook during the summer, so the $250 share will last me about eight weeks.  

Now if only Clear Brook Farm could do something about this weather…

Udon Noodle Soup with Spinach and Tofu: Big Flavor Minus the Fat

I so enjoyed the sausage and tortellini soup I prepared a few weeks ago from my America’s Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers recipe book that I recently tried another soup recipe from the booklet: Udon Noodle Soup with Scallops, Shiitakes and Watercress.

This udon noodle soup delivered the same big flavor as the sausage and tortellini soup, but without all the fat. In fact, there’s no fat at all in the udon noodle soup.

I made some major modifications to America’s Test Kitchen’s udon noodle soup recipe. First, to cut down on the cost of the ingredients, I used the tofu that was in my fridge instead of buying scallops at the supermarket. Second, I used spinach instead of watercress because I couldn’t find the spicy green at my supermarket, and since I had spinach from my CSA in my fridge. Third, I used the ramen noodles in my pantry in lieu of udon noodles, which I couldn’t find at Price Chopper, anyway. Finally, I used the dried porcini mushrooms in my pantry in place of dried shiitake mushrooms–another ingredient I couldn’t find at my local Price Chopper.

I enjoyed this soup so much because it was so tasty, satisfying and healthy. Eric and I got several meals out of it.

Ingredients

4 C. low sodium chicken broth

4 C. water

1/3 C. soy sauce

1/4 C. mirin

6 dried shiitake mushrooms (I used porcinis)

1 (3/4-in.) piece of fresh ginger, peeled, sliced and crushed

1 (9-oz.) package of fresh udon noodles (I used ramen; soba would work equally well and would provide more protein)

1 lb. sea scallops (I used tofu)

2 C. watercress (I used four cups of spinach)

3 scallions, sliced thin

Method

1. Combine broth, water, soy sauce, mirin, ginger and shiitakes in a large saucepan. [If you’re using porcinis instead of shiitakes, reconstitute your porcinis in boiling water before adding them to the broth.] Simmer, covered, over medium heat about 10 minutes. [If using porcinis, add them after 10 minutes.]

2. Meanwhile, bring 2 quarts water to boil in a large pot. Add noodles to boiling water and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain noodles, then divide between 4 large serving bowls.

3. Using slotted spoon, remove ginger and shiitakes from simmering broth [<–I left the ginger and porcinis in the broth]. Discard ginger and shiitake stems.  Slice shiitake caps thin and return to pot. Add scallops [or tofu] to pot and simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in watercress [or spinach] and scallions until just wilted, about 1 minute. Ladle soup over noodles and serve.

Pantry Cooking: Spaghetti Puttanesca with Flaked Tuna

Tonight’s dinner: Spaghetti Puttanesca with Flaked Tuna

This is another great recipe from my America’s Test Kitchen 30 Minute Suppers recipe booklet. I like it because it tastes awesome, you can prepare it quickly, and because I always have all the ingredients in my pantry.

Ingredients

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

4 anchovy fillets, minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 (14.5-oz.) cans petite diced tomatoes (I used 1, 28-oz. can)

2 (6 oz.) cans tuna packed in water, drained and flaked

1/2 C pitted kalamata olives, chopped

2 Tbsp drained capers

3 Tbsp choped fresh parsley

1 lb. spaghetti

Method

1. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add anchovies, garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. Add tomatoes and cook until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Add tuna, olives and capers, and cook, breaking up any large tuna chunks, until heated through, about two minutes. Off heat, stin in parsley. Cover and keep warm.

3. Add spaghetti and 1 Tbsp. salt to boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 C. cooking water, drain pasta and return to pot. Add sauce and toss to combine, adding reserved pasta water as needed (I didn’t use any). Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Modifications

1. The recipe calls for 1 lb. of pasta to serve four people.  Since I was just cooking for Eric and I me, I only used a half pound of pasta, but I still cooked all of the sauce.  A half pound of pasta yielded two healthy servings for Eric and me as well as leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

2. I used Barilla’s whole grain spaghetti.

Other notes

1. The garlic came from my CSA.

2. I made a salad to go with the pasta. The leaf lettuce came from the last week of my CSA–the week before Christmas. I finally used up all the lettuce tonight.

Amateur Hour at Sugar on Snow

A food blog without photos? 

I’ve been meaning to address for several weeks the fact that my blog features so very few pictures of the delectable dinners I prepare. Allow me to explain the glaring absence of images on this food blog.

Last April, when my husband and I were vacationing on Grand Bahama, my dear husband lost a key piece of the gadget we use to charge our digital camera battery.  Without this component of the battery charger, we can not plug the battery charger into an outlet. Thus, our digital camera battery remains dead. Thus, I can not take photos, and I am currently too cheap to purchase a new battery or battery charging system. The last time I checked the price of a battery charging kit for a Kodak digital camera on Amazon.com, it cost $60. For that much money (plus another 30 bucks), I could purchase one of those new Canon Sure Shots that rate so highly in Consumer Reports.    

As I look at the price of battery charging kits on Kodak’s website this evening, I see they’re now on sale, and the one I think I need is $40–a more reasonable price. 

In the meantime, I’ll continue to use 35 mm film.  (Remember that stuff?)

Sausage and Tortellini Soup

One of the other comforting meals I made last week (see my entry on Beef Empanadas) also came from my new America’s Test Kitchen recipe booklet: It was a sausage and tortellini soup.

I wasn’t expecting the soup to have much flavor, but after I tasted it my eyes grew wide. This soup is bursting with a rich, meaty flavor from the Italian sausage and the cheese tortellini.  The soup looks and tastes as if it was made with rendered bacon fat and a Parmesan cheese rind. It also tastes as though it had simmered for hours. In fact, I don’t think it took much more than 30 minutes to cook. I highly recommend this recipe.

Sausage and Tortellini Soup with Spinach

Ingredients

1 Tbsp olive oil (I omitted the olive oil; the soup gets enough fat from the sausage)

1 lb. sweet or hot Italian sausage

1 onion, chopped fine

2 cloves of garlic, minced

6 cubs low-sodium chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1 (9 oz.) package fresh cheese tortellini

3 C baby spinach

salt & pepper

Method

1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking (I omitted this step). Cook sausages, rolling occasionally, until browned all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and pour off all but 1 Tbsp fat from pot. (I didn’t bother to pour off the extra fat.)

2. Cook onion in sausage fat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth and bay leaf, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to a boil.

3. Cut browned sausages into 1/2-inch rounds and add to pot. Stir in tortellini and simmer over medium heat until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in spinach until just wilted, about a minute. Season with salt and pepper. Discard bay leaf. Serve.

Stick-to-Your-Ribs Beef Empanadas

Most days, I look forward to cooking dinner, especially if I’ve selected a new recipe to try.  A good supper makes every day better, and to my mind, redeems even the worst days.  If Eric comes home after a bad day at work, my assurance to him is invariably, “We’re going to have a great dinner tonight.” I don’t know if the prospect of an extra-special supper makes him feel any better about a lousy day, but I know he appreciates my cooking.

Last week I needed to make some extra-comforting dinners for us.  I started with a recipe for “Quick Beef Empanadas” I found in America’s Test Kitchen’s latest booklet of recipe cards.  The picture of the empanadas was irresistible, and the recipe appeared simple and tasty.

Quick Beef Empanadas

From: America’s Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers, Winter 2010

Ingredients

1 lb. 85 percent lean ground beef

1 onion, chopped fine

2 Tbsps tomato paste

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp ground cumin

1 C shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I used VT cheddar)

1/4 C finely chopped fresh cilantry (I used close to 1/3 C)

salt and pepper

1 (15 oz) box Pillsbury Just Unroll! Pie Crust

Method

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Cook beef and onion in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, garlic, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Off heat, stir in cheese and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Cut each dough round in half. Arrange one quarter of filling on one side of each dough half, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges. Brush edges of dough with water, fold over filling, and crimp edges to seal. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Using fork, pierce dough at 2-inch intervals so steam can escape. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

It took me a total of 50 minutes to make the empanadas. They were well worth the time. The recipe made four empanadas, and Eric and I each  got multiple meals out of them because they were so hearty and rich.  They were a perfect dinner for a freezer Vermont night and tasted just as good for lunch in the following days.  I reheated them in aluminum foil in a 300 degree oven for about 30 minutes one day, and on another occasion in a 325 degree toaster oven.

*Editor’s Note: The photo above comes from Cook’s Country, published by Cook’s Illustrated (the publisher of the America’s Test Kitchen recipe booklet I have).  The photo doesn’t represent the empanadas I made but rather a different recipe for pork empanadas.

Latkes and Donuts

Since it’s customary to eat foods fried in oil during Hanukkah, I made latkes for dinner last Saturday night (the second night of Hanukkah).  I started making latkes on my own maybe five years ago, after a lifetime of helping my mom make them every Hanukkah. My mom doesn’t follow a recipe.  She inherently knows the right ratio of ingredients.

One Hanukkah, I decided to write down my mom’s method for making latkes  as she prepared them. I knew that if I had any hope of every making potato pancakes on my own, I’d need a recipe to follow.  The challenge with my mom’s recipe is that no single ingredient is measured out.  Like all good family recipes, it’s a handful of this and a sprinkle of that.  

My mom’s “recipe” for latkes serves a crowd, so I always have to adjust the recipe to feed two people: Eric and me.  Even though I scale back the recipe every year, I’m always dubious as to how mine are going to come out.  I assume my latkes are going to come out soggy because I didn’t get the ratios of ingredients right, yet every year they cook up just fine.  I’m happy to say this year’s batch of latkes was no different.  

I served the latkes with sour cream and apple sauce, and I steamed a bunch of red chard, which came in my CSA that week, to eat on the side. I wanted something healthy to eat with the latkes…and with the jelly donuts we were also having for dinner. In Israel, Jewish families eat jelly donuts on Hanukkah because donuts are fried in oil. Being the gluttons that Eric and I are, we decided to do up our Hanukkah Ashkenazi and Israel style. We’ll use any excuse to eat jelly donuts. What the heck? You only live once, right?  

Oddly, when I was little, I didn’t like latkes.  My mom used to douse them in sugar or apple sauce to get me to eat them. Now I can’t get enough of them.  I devoured five of them last Saturday night.  

I can’t share my latke recipe here because it’s a family secret. Suffice to say they’re the best latkes. You’ll just have to try them yourself some time.