Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pumpkin and apple soup with andouille, balsamic vinegar, and blue cheese toasts


We survived another busy summer, and here I am once again recommitting to being a Better Blogger. Does she mean it this time? Who knows! Mama's trying her best, friends. Let's just jump right back into business, shall we? Tasty business!

I recently read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver as part of the Coppell Public Library "Coppell Reads" program. Great book, overall, and in it Kingsolver recounts coming across a headline in her local newspaper touting the arrival of pumpkin season, and to turn to page whatever for some great pumpkin recipes. She flipped to the article, and every single recipe called for opening a can of pumpkin puree. Can't even make this stuff up, right?

The inspiring recipe calls for butternut squash, but I consider all the winter squashes pretty interchangeable. Acorn, kabocha, delicata, butternut, pumpkin, get whatever's available and looks good at your Farmer's Market (we are especially partial to White Rock Local Market and Coppell Farmers Market, where you can usually find us) or Green Grocer. I made a few changes because I'm lazy (sloshing hot water in a shallow pan to roast the pumpkins didn't sound fun), health-conscious (a cup of butter, really?), cheap (if I'm using apples and have cinnamon and nutmeg in my pantry, I see no reason to buy apple cider as well), and really, really like sausage (who are you to judge me?). Winter squash and apples are going to vary in their level of sweetness; I found I needed to add just a little maple syrup to round it out at the end. Go by your taste. Adding a healthy drizzle of good quality aged balsamic vinegar right before serving was about the best decision I made yesterday. I also relocated the blue cheese to atop some toasted baguette as opposed to in the soup, but that was just so the bread wouldn't be lonely. I'm nice.

I do have to make one snooty little plea to use homemade stock, if you have it. There's just no comparison. I'd use boxed (organic, low sodium) in a pinch, but you'll really notice the difference if you make your own. Don't toss your turkey carcasses after Festivus - throw that sucker in a huge pot with onion, carrot, celery, some fresh herbs, kosher salt and a few peppercorns. Cover with water and simmer a couple hours, skim off the foam and schmutz, let cool and stash in small batches in the freezer. It's well worth the effort.

The soup as written below makes enough for 4-6 big portions, but only enough sausage and cheesy toasts for 2.

~2-3 lb winter squash (I used several li'l New England pie pumpkins, it was about 4 cups once cooked and scooped out)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 apple (I used a Gala), peeled, cored, and chopped
8 cups chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
dash cinnamon, ground (probably about 1/8 tsp)
dash cayenne pepper, to taste
1 tbsp maple syrup
drizzle of good quality aged balsamic vinegar

2 oz spicy andouille sausage, cut into 1/4 inch dice

1/2 a fresh baguette, sliced 1/2 thick on the bias
nice funky blue cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Halve your winter squash and scoop out the seeds (save those guys for toasting). Arrange them cut-side down on a baking tray rubbed with a little olive oil and roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Allow them to cool.

Meanwhile, dice the rest of your vegetables. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven and sweat the onion, garlic, and celery with a good pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the apple and sauté another few minutes, until they start to break down, then add all the stock. Bring to a simmer. When your winter squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and add it to the pot along with the nutmeg, cinnamon, and cayenne. Cover and let it simmer about half an hour.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium flame and add the andouille. Technically it's already cooked, you just want to brown it up nicely on all sides. This shouldn't take longer than 5 minutes. Drain the excess fat.

Toast up your baguette slices and smear with your lovely funky blue cheese.

When all the vegetables in your soup are tender, jam your immersion blender in there and puree that sucker smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (I like a good grind of black pepper at this point). It's a good idea to taste your sausage and blue cheese too, mine were both actually pretty salty so I went easy on the soup.

Plate up in shallow bowls with a sprinkle of sausage and a drizzle of high quality balsamic vinegar. Dip that damn toast in there.

Serves 2 as written with lots of leftover soup.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Linguine with artichokes and pancetta

First things first, farm update. Team Pure Land have been busy li'l bees, we tackled all kinds of projects this winter. We trenched, laid, and buried a few thousand feet of irrigation pipe to make watering infinitely easier. We planted 38 peach trees and started 119 varieties of baby veggie plants, now ready to go in the ground. We've about finished our greenhouse, and it hasn't flown away yet! The design is almost complete for our barn / shop / walk-in cooler / apartment (with TWO bathrooms!!!) and soon we'll start swingin' hammers. We have spreadsheets and fun new equipment and terrace layouts and pest control strategery and new friends up the yin-yang. In short, there's a lot going on, and with Spring springing all around... things are about to get nuts. Wouldn't have it any other way!

My intention with this blog is to give you ideas of what to do with our produce as it comes into season and off the fields, into your homes. Unfortunately there's nothing ready to eat yet, so let's just pretend I grew these little artichokes. Aren't they cute? Thank you.

When your mother texts that she randomly bought a whole bunch of baby artichokes and asks if you want some, you say yes, then figure out what to do with them. I turned to this recipe from my fantasy BFF, Mario Batali. Pork + pasta + wine + artichokes + cheese? That doesn't suck! I modified the proportions a bit; Mario called for just 8 baby artichokes and 2 ounces of pork for a pound of spaghetti... I prefer more stuff than that. It turned out perfectly, a gloriously springy dish. The only thing I would change is a handful of parsley at the end. Get some baby artichokes from your mother or farmer's market and partake.

~1/4 lb pancetta, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 shallot, minced
~ 8 wee baby artichokes, trimmed up like so, sliced 1/4" thick and dunked into a bowl of water with a lemon squeezed into it (to prevent browning they say, but mine browned a bit anyway)
1/4 cup dry white wine
4-6 oz strand pasta (I had linguine)
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Put a pot of water on to boil for your pasta. Cook it for one minute shy of the package directions, retain 1/4 cup of the cooking water, drain and set aside.

While that's happening, get your pancetta rendering in a little olive oil in a pan (that has a lid) over low heat. I like to let that go 5-10 minutes, then turn the heat up to start crisping the pancetta. Chop your garlic and shallot and add them to the pan, allowing to sweat another couple minutes. Now add the sliced artichokes, cover, and let cook for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the wine, cover, and let cook another 5 minutes. When the artichokes are cooked through, add your drained pasta with the 1/4 cup of cooking water, toss toss toss, and taste a strand for doneness. Add a good shredding of Parmigiano-Reggiano, then taste again and adjust seasoning with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Top with more cheese. Sprinkle with parsley if you are smarter than me. YAY SPRING!

Serves 2, takes half an hour.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tomato-braised lamb steaks, kale, and garlic bread

What month is it?... September, seriously?

The summer was an absolute blast. An absolute blur, to be sure, but man did we have some fun. Met scores of cool people, made great connections, and started allowing ourselves to dream a little bigger. Like a good li'l group of STEM professionals, we had designed the summer as a feasibility experiment: can we grow food, and will people want to buy it? After a long, hot summer of backbreaking research, the data have been interpreted thusly: Hell. Yeah. I'll cop to minor cherry-picking, but you know you can take the girl outta the lab, can't take the lab outta the girl. Overwhelmingly, our successes outweighed our failures, Farmer Pop's cholesterol went down 30 points, and I never want to see another zucchini again.

We established a Saturday morning home base at Saint Michael's Farmers Market, where they really treated us wonderfully and we got to know the names of our "regulars" pretty quickly. Our produce could have been on your place at NonnaRestaurant AVA, or Bolsa, not to mention amazing Patina Green Home and Market, our neighbors in McKinney (who recently won Food Network's best sandwich in Texas). You may have had our veggies delivered to you by Greenling, too. And I've already got a couple new places already lined up for fall, like the Green House food truck and a very cool new all-organic shop opening up in Lower Greenville, Green Grocer. [This paragraph has been brought to you by the word Green.] 

Make a friend. Share your kale.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Summer bounty... my fave.

I haven't been around much, so first of all, I must apologize. But I promise it has been for good cause; the farm is absolutely kicking ass. We've got more zucchini than you can shake a stick at (and I've shaken a lot of sticks at them let me tell you), basil bushes the size of pre-teens, pole beans just begging for another foot of trellis so they can plow further skyward. It is an absolutely wondrous thing of beauty, and we spend an embarrassing amount of time just strolling through the rows, winding vines on stakes and peeking under leaves, giggling while shouting what we've found to each other across the fields. I love how the cars on the road slow as they pass, how the passengers faces break into smiles as they point at all our hard work.

This is not to say everything has gone perfectly. Apparently the entire Collin County blister beetle population had never experienced the culinary foodgasm that is our potato plant foliage, so they dropped in and called aaaaaall their friends. Farmer Dad and I bravely fought the bastards for weeks before conceding yesterday... about four weeks shy of full growth. There ought to be some new potatoes under there, so all is not lost, but you won't be seeing Pure Land Organic potatoes next year, that's fo sho. Win some, lose some.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Yellow tomato gazpacho

This time of year, one of my favorite things to do is count the tomatoes on my countertop. 

From the garden this morning I collected six Husky Red Cherries, two nice Celebrities, and two orangey Old Germans. Living with them on the counter is also one big red guy from the "Texas Tomatoes" bin at Central Market (I suspect it's a Celebrity or Carnival). Even though I know I have a virtually limitless supply of tomatoes this year, I can't walk past the bin without buying a couple. Because, what if the five plants in my garden and the thousand plants at the farm die?? I should secure alternative tomatoes, just in case. And from the farm, five beautiful Yellow Perfections and fourteen little Golden Nuggets. I stow them in an assortment of cute bowls on the counter and visit multiple times a day to smile down at them and count again. I don't know why... it just makes me happy.

Farmer Pop and I have been busting our sweaty humps out at the farm (exactly one year old today - happy birthday, little farm) and yes, we really do have about a thousand beautiful tomato plants. Eight varieties in all, from little bitty red Sweeties to gnarly giant Beefsteaks. I spent the better part of yesterday morning scooting along the tomato rows in the sunshine, gently encouraging the plants up into the twine support lines, basking in the perfume of their leaves and grinning like a filthy, sweaty idiot. Every once in a while I'd stumble upon a ripe one and snag it for Quality Control. Yes... sweet, delicious Quality Control.