Tortellini Gratinata with Mushrooms and Parsnip Bechamel

We got parsnips this week.  This is the first time we’ve ever received these veggies.  They’re not a very popular vegetable here in America, though they’re extremely popular in Europe.  They basically look like white carrots and can be used in much the same way as their orange cousins.  When I went trolling for a recipe for our parsnips, I ran into this one on Epicurious.com.  It’s complicated, but not difficult.  I like that it replaced some of the butter and cream of a traditional bechamel with the parsnip puree.

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I prepared the recipe almost exactly as the website spells out, hence I’m not reposting the recipe here.  It’s not fast, but it’s really good and yields a ton of left overs.  The only changes I did make were:

  • I didn’t have whole milk, so I used 1 1/2 c skim milk and 1 c cream
  • I didn’t have a full 12 oz of parsnips from our box, so I supplemented the last 4 oz with carrots.  I had a couple extra carrots, too, so I diced them and sauteed them with the mushrooms
  • I didn’t have Gorgonzola dolce, so I used regular old mega-mart Gorgonzola with no ill effects
  • I didn’t have rosemary, so I substituted 1/4 c fresh minced parsley.

I know that’s a lot of “I didn’t haves” but that’s the important lesson to learn when you get a CSA box.  You often won’t get enough of some vegetable, or you’ll get piles and piles of another.  You won’t get the herb you want, but you’ll get plenty of another.  The key is to roll with the punches.  Don’t get too hung up on the exact measurements and ingredients and learn what can be substituted easily.  Once you release yourself from the “have to haves…” it’s so much easier to live with the “didn’t haves…”

Beet Gnocchi

If you think you can sell beet pasta to your three year-old on the basis that it’s pink, you will probably be wrong.  But if you want to use your CSA beets in a new and interesting way, this is for you.  When I set out to make the gnocchi, I was put off by the idea of having to roll and cut all those pieces of pasta.  But when I made this dough, I realized it was soft enough to pipe directly into the boiling water.  That shaved at least an hour off the total prep time.

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Beet Gnocchi

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes

3 medium beets (about 8 oz), peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes

2 whole eggs

1 t kosher salt

pepper

1 1/2 to 2 1/2 c AP flour

Browned butter and grated cheese for serving

Boil the potatoes in salted water until they are tender and easily mashed.  Set aside.  Separately, steam the beets until they are also fork tender – about 20-30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.  Meanwhile build the pasta dough.

Combine the cooked beets and potatoes in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse, scraping frequently, until they are very smooth.  Add the two eggs and continue to pulse and scrape until very smooth.  Add salt and pepper.  Add 1 c of flour a quarter cup at a time, pulsing for about 10 seconds after each addition.  At this point, the dough should be starting to form and stick.  Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead in another 1/2 c of flour.  The dough should be the consistency of very soft bread dough.  It should hold its shape just barely enough to be rolled into ropes.  Add additional flour, 1/4 c at a time, until the dough is this consistency.  It should not be too firm, or you will not be able to pipe it.

Fit a very large (1/2″ to 1″) star or round tip onto a 16″ or larger piping bag.  If you don’t have a star tip or piping bag, you can cut the corner off a gallon sized plastic zip-top bag for the same effect.  Spoon the dough into the piping bag.  Hold the piping bag with one hand and a small paring knife with another.  Working over the pot of boiling water, squeeze about 1″ of dough out and cut it off with the paring knife.  Continue working until you’ve cut about 20-30 pieces into the water.  The gnocchi are done when they are all floating – about 2-3 minutes.  Scoop the gnocchi out with a slotted spoon into a serving bowl.  Continue working in batches until all the gnocchi are prepared.

Serve warm drizzled with browned butter and grated cheese.

Serves 4.

 

Golden Beet Soft Pretzels

Settle in, folks.  We’re about to make internet history!

Story #1:

A few months ago, our grocery store had these pretzel rolls.  They were delicious.  Simple and chewy and amazing for meatball subs.  We ate them for two weeks straight, then they disappeared from the store never to be seen again.  We lamented their loss until earlier this week when I said “you know, I could probably make those.”  Having today off work, I decided to mix up some bread and try my hand at making pretzel rolls myself.  Pretzel bread is really easy – take your normal bread and boil it briefly in a baking soda and water solution before baking.

Story #2:

Two weeks ago I baked some fresh beet bread.  It was a simple yeast bread with a puree of beet added.  It was earthy and delicious and my daughter ate it up because it was bright pink.  I had ever intention of recording it for our good readers’ pleasure, but it was SO good that we ate the entire loaf before I could snap a few photos.  Having today off work, and having several bunches of beets in the fridge from the past couple boxes, I figured I’d bake a new loaf to blog.

The Convergence:

So there I was today in my kitchen.  Both my pretzel roll dough and my beet dough were nearly done with their first rise.  I had placed the water on to boil for the pretzels.  The oven was hot and ready.  And in the madness that was my kitchen at that moment (a separate story all together) I stopped.  I looked at the pretzel dough…then I looked at the beet bread dough…back at the pretzel dough…back at the beet bread dough…then at the boiling water.  If pretzels are just bread boiled before baking…then what would stop me from making beet pretzels?  NOTHING.  That’s what.  And thus Beet Pretzels were born!!  I’m taking credit for this one, too.  I can’t even find a recipe on the internet for beet pretzels.  And if you can’t find it on the internet, it doesn’t exist.

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I baked these in a roll form so we could use them to make meatball subs, but the recipe would not change in the slightest if you wanted to make them into traditional pretzel shapes or rods or whatever other shape you can think of.  I used golden beets, hence the yellow hue.  Any beets would fit the bill, though.

Golden Beet Soft Pretzels

About 8-10 oz raw beets, peeled and trimmed of tops

1/2 c milk or plain yogurt

3/4 c warm (not hot) water

1 envelope active dry yeast (2 1/4 t)

1 t sugar

4 c flour (bread or AP) plus more for dusting

2 T olive oil

2 t salt

6 c water

1/4 c baking soda

Start by making the beet puree.  Pulse the beets in a food processor until they are as smooth as you can get them.  Add the yogurt or milk and continue pulsing and scraping until the mixture is as smooth as you can get it.  It will not get creamy, just get it as smooth as possible.

In a small bowl, combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar.  Set aside for about 5 minutes, or until the yeast is frothy.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the beet puree, yeast mixture, flour, oil, and salt.  Knead with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic (6-8 minutes).  Shape into a smooth ball and place the ball in an oiled bowl.  Cover with a clean cloth and set in a warm place until the dough roughly doubles in size – 30-45 minutes, depending on your environment.

Punch the dough down and knead on a lightly floured surface about 10 times, until the dough is smooth.  Divide into your desired shape and size.  In the case of hoagie rolls, divide into 6 logs about 6″ long.  Score the tops of the rolls about 1/4″ deep and arrange on a parchment covered baking sheet that has been lightly oiled or dusted with cornmeal.  Let the dough rise a second time until nearly doubled in size – about 15 minutes.  This is about the exact amount of time it will take to boil the water and preheat the oven.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Bring 6 cups of water to a rolling boil in a wide pot.

When the water is boiling, add 1/4 c baking soda.  The water will foam up quite a bit but then the bubbles will subside.  Working in batches, carefully drop in each roll.  Boil for 30 seconds, flip, and boil for another 30 seconds.  Remove with a slotted spoon and return to the parchment covered baking sheet.  When all the pretzels have been boiled, bake for 20 minutes or until the rolls sound hollow when tapped.  The baking time will vary significantly based on how large or small your pretzels are.

What’s for dinner: Whenever

Fettuccini with Leeks and Bacon

Fettuccine with Leeks and Bacon

I’ve lost track of the days. Last weekend was my daughter’s 3rd birthday party and this week has just kind of disappeared. I keep taking pictures of stuff and then forgetting to write about it. So here’s a few that were worth noting.

Above, my not as lovely version of Framed Cooks’ Fettuccine with Leeks and Bacon. I think I got the water/cream proportions wrong, or overcooked it. It was still quite tasty, but I think next time I’ll do half and half instead. On the side, my focaccia with some extra toasted garlic on top. A lot of this week’s meals were about ways to use up focaccia.

Roasted salmon and sweet potatoes. Csaforthree.com

Roasted Salmon with Sweet Potatoes

This is a quick pan roast – about 1 lb of salmon, just seasoned with a little bit of salt and some Meyer lemon rind. The sweet potatoes and onions are cut up super quick with my mandoline, and tossed with olive oil, a little salt, and pepper. I made it for my daughter’s birthday because she loves salmon and she refused to eat any. Typical.

Breakfast sandwich

Focaccia Breakfast Sandwich

This is what’s for breakfast, clearly. A cup of cafe au lait (with actual sugar, because this was party day and I was going to be damned if I didn’t eat some of Tiffany’s amazing cake), and a chunk of focaccia sliced in half with a slice of smoked gouda, a scrambled egg, and a slice of bacon broken in half. Nothing wrong with that.

Bonus photo and plug:

You may or may not know that my blogging partner, Tiffany, is a pastry chef who has her own catering business. She is insanely talented and her cakes are delicious and beautiful. Obviously she had a happy customer!

Goat Cheese and Herb Ravioli with Crispy Garlic Butter

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I was rolling through the aisles of a local market a couple weeks ago when I spotted the fresh pasta section.  I was drooling over a fresh goat cheese and herb ravioli.  Until, that is, I saw the price.  $9 for 12 raviolis.  Are you kidding me?  Back the truck up.  I’m not paying 75 cents per single little ravioli.  Heck, my pasta roller only cost $25.  I could earn it back in ravioli alone.  And so I did.

I had no recipe.  I just collected some of the herbs we had received in our CSA and pureed them with some goat cheese cut with cream cheese.  I scooped that into some big raviolis and mixed up a sauce out of what I could pull out of the cabinet in the 3 minutes the ravioli was cooking.  The result – amazing.  My husband wolfed them down, raving the entire time about how good they were.  My husband does not rave.  To say something is “ok” is about as high a compliment as he gives.  So for him to be saying “this is so good!  This is amazing!” as he took every bite is unprecedented.  The best part – this recipe yielded about 30 big ravioli.  We ate about half in one meal and I froze the rest.  But let’s do some math, shall we?  30 ravioli at a market price of 75 cents each = $22.50.  6 oz of goat cheese + 8 oz cream cheese = $9.61.

I think I came out ahead in the mix.  Two meals for the price of one!

Goat Cheese and Herb Ravioli

For the pasta dough:

2 c AP flour

Pinch Kosher salt

3 eggs

1 T olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in an electric mixer and knead with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and supple.  Or to mix by hand, mound the flour and pinch of salt on the counter.  Make a well in the center of the flour.  Put the eggs and olive oil in the well and mix with a fork, slowly drawing in the flour until everything is incorporated.  Knead for a few minutes until the dough is supple, dusting the counter with more flour if the dough starts to stick.  Add a teaspoon or two of water if necessary.Regardless of the mixing method, cover the dough with a towel and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

For the filling:

Generous 1/2 c fresh herbs of your choosing.  I used half parsley and half cilantro, because that’s what I had.  Basil would also be a great pick.

6 oz goat cheese, softened

8 oz cream cheese, softened

In a food processor, pulse the herbs until they are finely minced.  Add the softened cream cheese and goat cheese and pulse until the cheese becomes smooth and incorporates all the herbs.

To make the ravioli, roll sheets of pasta to a thin, but not paper thin, level.  On my machine, the pasta was rolled to #3 out of 7.  Lay one sheet down on the counter.  Place 1 t dollops of filling 2″ apart on the sheet of pasta.  With a pastry brush, brush water around each dot of filling.  Place the second sheet of pasta over top of the first.  Carefully run your fingers around each dot of filling, pushing any air bubbles out and sealing the two sheets of dough together.  With a pizza cutter (or ravioli cutter, if you have one) cut the dough into uniform squares, leaving enough room around each dot of filling so that the seal won’t break.  Lay the ravioli on a cornmeal dusted cookie sheet and continue working until dough and filling are all formed.

To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.  Very gently drop the raviolis in one by one.  Boil until they float – about 3 minutes.  Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate.

To freeze, lay the raviolis out on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer.  Once they freeze (4-6 hours, or overnight), gather them up and put them in a zip-top bag.

Crispy Garlic Sauce

3 T unsalted butter

3 large cloves garlic, minced

Pinch salt

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  When it is melted, but not yet brown, add the minced garlic.  Continue to cook, stirring, until the butter and garlic both brown – about 3 minutes.  Do not walk away from this, do not turn your head.  Garlic has a very very very small window between being flavorful and browned and just bitter.  The garlic may not be uniformly brown, that’s ok.  It’s better to have some undercooked garlic than overcooked and bitter pieces.  Drizzle the butter over the raviolis and serve hot.

 

 

What’s for dinner: Saturday

Pasta Mezzanotte, Sauteed Brussels Sprouts Greens, and Focaccia

Pasta Mezzanotte, Sautéed Brussels Sprouts Greens, and Focaccia

Dinner tonight was slightly experimental. The pasta is just capellini with olive oil, red pepper flakes, sliced garlic, Pecorino Romano, and chopped parsley. The parsley came from today’s CSA box, which is super green heavy. It’s called Pasta Mezzanotte and it takes about ten minutes to make. Super easy. It was fine, but not exciting. I think next time I’ll do half olive oil and half butter, and maybe use thyme instead of parsley.

The greens are Brussels sprouts greens. I’ve never cooked them before. After checking with the interwebs, I decided to sauté them in a bit of olive oil, garlic, and Meyer lemon zest. I salted them a bit at the end. They were good, but I should have cooked them a little longer. Still, I like my greens to have some bite to them. They have a mild flavor, though not as sweet as the sprouts. The hunk of focaccia is unfortunately store bought and unremarkable. I wanted to make a fresh batch, but it didn’t happen. For a light, quick dinner it was just fine, and both recipes are good enough to tinker with some more in the future.

What’s for Dinner: Wednesday

Husband birthday dinner. Csaforthree dot com

Lamb Tagine with Apricots in Honey Sauce, Sea Salt and Rosemary Focaccia, Pinot Noir

Today is the husband’s birthday, and he requested his favorite dish, Tagine of Lamb and Apricots in Honey Sauce.It’s seriously delicious. I’ve never blogged it because it doesn’t feature CSA fare, and is totally unchanged from the original recipe. I’m sure I could throw in some sweet potatoes, or leeks, or something from our CSA and health it up a bit, but it’s delicious as is, and this was a special birthday request.

I’ve never understood the “cooked till it’s falling apart” approach to meat. Usually that means either I get something so fatty it never dries out, or eat stringy, sawdusty meat with lots of sauce. But I think the technique of sticking the dutch oven in the oven essentially pressure cooks the lamb, and it always comes out soft and delicious. I really prefer my leg of lamb (and most meat) on the rare side, but this is a different beast.

Note the focaccia! It came out fantastic. I used this recipe from foodtv.com, but I used a bit less flour. I couldn’t figure out how comparable recipes used only 3.5ish cups, so I split the difference. I also, per my Dad’s advice, took it out after 15 minutes and used an instant read thermometer to check doneness. It was not as browned as the last (super tough) batch, but fully cooked at 205 degrees. Victory! Fluffy, tender, flavorful focaccia. Win!

Dessert was Goat Cheese, Thyme, and Honey ice cream from our beloved Lick, and fresh organic strawberries. I opted to hold the ice cream and save up for my big fast breaking on V-Day next week.

Dessert

What’s for Dinner: Monday

I’ve decided to try out a new type of post. Much of what I cook on a weekly basis is a repeat or adaptation of recipes I’ve already blogged, or sometimes a new recipe that I haven’t perfected yet. I realized that while that might not be interesting from a “I want to make this for dinner tonight” standpoint, it might be interesting if you are trying to figure out what to do with all that dang chard, or are wondering if what you have on hand might work in a recipe that calls for something else. So I’m going to try to blog some of my minor successes (and failures). Feel free to let me know if this interesting, boring, helpful, or just lame. I’m also going to be using iPhone pictures to make it easier and faster to update, I’ll be saving my nicer pictures for actual recipe posts.

Chard and Beet Green Quiche

Chard and Beet Green Quiche

This is an adaptation of my crustless quiche recipe. I keep the proportions more or less the same. I had green onions, garlic, and Canadian bacon on hand, so they went in the layer on top of the cheese, which was a really sharp Italian cheese I needed to use up. The greens are my CSA chard and beet greens – stemmed, washed, blanched, rinsed in cold water, squeezed out, and chopped. Much like in my crepes recipe. While this technique may end up blanching out some of the flavor and nutrients, I just barely wilt them, and I find it’s the only way to make sure all the dirt and sand is completely gone – and it also keeps too much water from leaking into eggs. It was a nice combo, but I think bacon would have worked a little better with the other flavors.

Focaccia

We also had my first home made focaccia for dinner. I have not yet blogged my attempts at bread making yet because they have varied from disastrous to mediocre. This bread was based on an Emeril Lagasse recipe, but it rose too fast and ended up a little overly chewy. Tasty enough, but not perfection. I don’t have much of a feel for bread yet. Is the dough too soft? Too sticky? What does “doubled in size” look like? I quit eating sugar at the new year. I have mad skills baking cookies, muffins, and scones. I took up bread to sub a sugar-free hobby for my baking addiction, but bread is a totally different beast.

Anyway, it was an okay but not exceptional dinner. Most days my cooking has a number of substitutions from the original, or even my adapted recipes. Sometimes they work extra well,  but I’m still learning what herbs and other flavorings work with what vegetables. Such is the life of a CSA home cook.

Dessert

Dessert!

Fish Tacos with Avocado and Grapefruit Salsa

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It’s citrus season around these parts.  That means that the only fruit we receive – oranges and grapefruits – is making its annual appearance in the box.  Normally I just slice the grapefruit and eat it for breakfast.  It’s the one time each year that the grapefruit spoons get to shine.  But as I was flipping through my Whole Living magazine, I saw a recipe for an avocado/grapefruit salsa.  I liked the concept, but stripped it down to the bare bones for this quick weeknight meal.  Fast, healthy, and seasonal – also good bets in our house.

Fish Tacos with Avocado and Grapefruit Salsa

2 filets (about 8 oz) Tilapia or similarly neutral fish

Olive Oil

Salt and pepper

6 corn tortillas

1 ripe Haas avocado

1 grapefruit

1 lime

1 c shredded cabbage

1/2 c Greek yogurt

cilantro, for garnish (optional)

On a foil lined pan, drizzle the fish filets with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Place the pan 8″ beneath a broiler.  Broil for 5 minutes on one side, flip, and broil another 5 minutes.  Watch these carefully, as they can go fast.  If your rack is closer to the broiler element, it may only take 2 minutes per side.  Fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork.  Set the cooked fish aside.

Wrap the corn tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds.  Set aside.  This loosens the tortillas up so they are nice and pliable.  I hated corn tortillas for years, turns out I just didn’t know to do this step.

Remove the flesh of the avocado and cut it into rough 1/2″ cubes and transfer to a bowl.  Remove the pith and pit from the grapefruit, cutting the grapefruit into supremes.  This takes a little effort in the knife skills department, but it’s a really great way to practice.  The supremes are going to be inside tacos, so it doesn’t matter if they’re pretty.  Break the segments into roughly the same size as the avocados.  Mix the grapefruit, avocado, juice of half the lime, a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt and the juice of the other half of the lime.

Assemble the tacos.  Flake the fish with a fork and divide over the 6 tortillas.  Sprinkle on the shredded cabbage.  Spoon on the avocado/grapefruit mixture, and top with a dollop of the lime yogurt.  Add cilantro for garnish, if you desire.  Serve with an extra wedge of lime for squeezing.