Monday, October 20, 2014

Roasted Delicata Squash and Apple Rings

This past weekend, when the sun was still shining (a distant memory a day later), we had the pleasure of visiting Sweetwater Farm, the major vendor of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market and source of our Good Food Easy CSA. 

Farmers Erica and Tom had on display an explosion of colorful winter squash, along with rosy gala apples. We got to see their impressive operation of greenhouses that keep them harvesting year round, and their open field with a few remaining summer crops including this ghoulish kohlrabi, that could be easily mistaken for a mandrake

All this fall bounty inspired me to roast rings of delicata squash and apples, as a side for a Fair Valley Farm ham. The recipe below gives specific temperatures, but both the squash and apples could be roasted at a range of temperatures, to accommodate whatever else is in the oven, as long as you keep an eye on them.

We had this delicious fall meal along with and my latest attempt at sourdough bread. And as an extra treat, dainty roasted delicata squash seeds, which are a real delicacy as compared to your regular jumbo jack-o'-lantern seeds.

Roasted Delicata Squash and Apple Rings
1 delicata squash
3 apples
a drizzle of olive oil
a pinch of salt

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Slice the ends off the delicata squash and discard. Slice the squash into 1/2 inch rounds. Hold each round flat and use a spoon to run along the interior edges of each disc to dislodge the inner goop and seeds. Save this to roast the seeds. Drizzle some olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Slide the squash discs in the olive oil to coat lightly, and then flip them over to coat the second side. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Place in the preheated oven. Bake for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, use a melon baller or paring knife to remove the stem and blossom ends of the apples. Slice each apple into 1/4 inch rounds crosswise across the core. Use the knife tip to flick away any seeds. Place the apple rounds on a second baking sheet.

3. Use a spatula to flip over the delicate squash discs. They should be golden brown and crisp on the bottom. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and put in the baking sheet with the apple rounds. Check everything after another 10 minutes. Both the apples and squash should be soft and the squash should be golden on both sides. Cook for a little longer if needed. When both are done, move them to a platter and layer the apple slices on the delicata squash rings. Serve warm.

Roasted Delicata Squash Seeds
Use your fingers to pry the seeds away from the squash goop, but a little clinging goop is fine. Mix the seeds with a Tbsp of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Roast in a small pan at 350 degrees, stirring after 5 minutes, and checking again every couple of minutes until they are golden brown. Be careful not to forget them because they will burn quickly. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cornmeal Plum Scones

We'll have to get used to a different Sunday morning routine now that the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market is done for the season. As my sister-in-law taught me this summer, making scones is a manageable morning task for a late breakfast, so my son and I whipped up these tasty scones from Melissa Clark, with plums from Sweetwater Farm and corn flour from Lonesome Whistle Farm.

For this recipe, you make a quick plum jam with caramelized honey and a bay leaf, and then layer this right into your scone dough triangles, resulting in some nice caramelized plum pieces on the top of your scones when they come out of the oven. 

To be enjoyed with extra plum jam, a second cup of tea, and another section of the Sunday newspaper as the morning fog burns off.

Cornmeal Plum Scones
3 tablespoons/45 milliliters honey
1 bay leaf
¾ pound plums/1/3 kilogram (~20 small), halved, pitted and then cut into 1-inch cubes
¾ cup/175 milliliters heavy cream, more as needed
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 ⅔ cups/275 grams all-purpose flour
⅓ cup/60 grams fine cornmeal
3 tablespoons/35 grams sugar
2 teaspoons/7 grams baking powder
½ teaspoon/2 grams kosher salt
6 tablespoons/85 grams unsalted butter at room temperature, cubed, plus more for serving if you like

1. Put honey and bay leaf in a medium skillet over medium heat. Simmer until honey is bubbling and turns a shade darker, about 2 minutes.

2. Place plums in honey. Cook, without moving, until undersides are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir plums and cook 1 to 2 minutes longer, until tender but not falling completely apart. If the caramel starts to get too brown, stir in a teaspoon or two of water and lower the heat. Scrape plums and syrup into a bowl and chill for at least 1 hour. (Plum compote can be made up to a week ahead.)

3. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

4. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the cream and egg.

5. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt (or you can do this in a food processor). Using a fork, pastry cutter or your fingertips, cut butter into flour until the mixture forms coarse crumbs (or pulse in a food processor). Drizzle in as much of the cream mixture as you need to make a smooth, moist but not wet dough. Save remaining cream-egg mixture for brushing.

6. Turn dough out onto prepared baking sheet. Pat into a 1 1/4-inch thick round. Using a paring knife, cut 8 wedge-shaped scones (as though you were cutting slices of pie) and push them apart on the baking sheet to separate them 1/2 inch apart. Brush dough with remaining cream-egg mixture, or use more cream if you’ve run out of the mixture.

7. Using your fingertips, make a deep indentation about 1 inch in diameter in the center of each scone. Tuck some plum into the hole. Transfer pan to oven and bake until uniformly golden brown, 15 to 17 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve scones with extra plum compote and butter on the side if you like.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fish-Fragrant Eggplant

This Sunday October 5th will be the last day of the fifth season of the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, so be sure to stock up on pastured chicken, lamb, and pork cuts from Fair Valley Farm and fresh produce and preserves from Good Food Easy at Sweetwater Farm. Once the season is over, consider signing up for CSAs with our market venders. This final market Sunday you can expect to find:

winter squash: turkish turban, acorn, delicata, and pumpkins (delicious in salads)
Gravenstein apples, Asian pears and bartlett pears from SLO farm (make apple sauce)
watermelon and cantaloupes
eggplants (try the addictive fish-fragrant eggplant dish below)
tomatoes and sweet and hot peppers (make and end of the season pasta primavera)
corn and tomatillos (make salsa) 
green and yellow beans (put away some green bean pickles)
potatoes, baby beets, and broccoli (delicious roasted)
fennel, cucumbers, kohlrabi, carrots, and radish (make sushi rolls)
crookneck squash, summer squash, and zucchini (make ratatouille)
cabbage (green, red, savoy) (make some barley and bean soup)
radicchio, chard, kale, lettuce, including bagged mix (make some kale pesto pizza)
garlic and fresh herbs (basil, oregano, sage, thyme) and home-grown lemon grass

Preserves, Beans, and Grains
From Sweet Creek Foods:
Dill Pickles, Chili Dill Pickles, Bread 'N Butter Pickles, Pickle Relish
Blueberry, Strawberry, Blackberry, and Raspberry Fruit Spreads
Enchilada Sauce and Salsa
From SLO Farm: Applesauce
Assorted beans and grains from Camas Country Mill

Here's a guest post from my husband, who shares his secrets for making one of my favorite Sichuan 
dishes, fish-fragrant eggplant. 

We have been buying lots of eggplant this summer, and almost all of it is for making "fish-fragrant eggplant" or yu xiang qie zi. This dish doesn't actually contain fish, but gets its name because the same flavorings are often used in Sichuan fish dishes.

The recipe I make is adapted from Fuchsia Dunlap's Every Grain of RiceIt makes a very satisfying meal eaten over rice, along with some some Sichuan dry-fried green beans and spicy cucumber salad

Fish Fragrant Eggplant
Adapted from Fuchsia Dunlap's Every Grain of Rice

2 long eggplants or 4 small eggplants
Cooking oil, for pan-frying
1 tablespoons Sichuan broad bean paste (also called ma po paste, or Doubanjiang)
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorn
1 spicy fresh pepper such as a cherry bomb (optional)
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2/3 cup (150ml) chicken stock
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon potato or tapioca flour mixed with one tablespoon cold water
2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar
4 tablespoons finely sliced spring onion greens

First, slice the eggplants into 2 inch sections, then split the sections into 4-8 pieces. Place in a colander and salt while turning. This helps release liquid which makes for a better frying. Let sit for 15 minutes. 

While the eggplant is sitting, slice the ginger and garlic. Cover the bottom of a wok with canola or other high-heat oil and heat on high. Add the eggplant (it may take two batches) and cook. Don't turn too frequently since you want them to get a nice golden brown sear.  Remove to drain on paper towels (cook the second batch if needed), pour off all but 1 Tbsp oil, and turn the heat down. 

Next, stir in the broad bean paste. I sprinkle in some Sichuan peppercorn at this point as well. Once they become fragrant, turn off the heat and add the garlic and ginger and optional fresh pepper. It is important not to burn these! If the heat looks under control, turn in back on to medium low until the ginger and garlic are cooked. 

Then pour in the chicken stock and add the sugar, add back the eggplant so it draws in the sauce. Add the potato or tapioca flour to thicken, stirring gently. Splash in the vinegar and the sliced green onion and enjoy!