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.