Friday, October 27, 2017

Sausage Ragu

This Sunday will likely be the last Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market of the season. Last week's rain disrupted the planned market, but this Sunday should be sunny, so you can be sure to find fresh eggs and pastured chicken, beef, pork, and lamb from Fair Valley Farm and Fog Hollow Farm, baked goods made with local whole grains from WildFlour Oven, and plenty of fresh produce from Camas Swale Farm

Since it is the last market of the season, besides indulging in baked goods and delicious food for the week, you should plan to stock up on winter squash, onions, root vegetables, and frozen meats for the winter. 

I would suggest picking up the fixings for this sausage ragu from the New York Times. I make a version with double the vegetables, producing enough sauce to freeze away for two additional meals. Made with Fair Valley Farm's sausage and Camas Swale's carrots, celery and giant shallots, the vibrant flavors will brighten a future rainy winter day.

Sausage Ragu
makes enough for three meals of one pound of pasta; freezes well
1 pound sweet Italian sausage or bulk sausage
 Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 carrot, minced
4 celery stalk, minced
¼ cup minced flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
2 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, with its juice
2 large sprig fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons tomato paste
 Ground black pepper
1 pound tubular dried pasta such as mezzi rigatoni, paccheri or penne
 Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish, optional

1. Crumble the sausage meat into a wide, heavy skillet or Dutch oven and set over medium-low heat. If the meat is not rendering enough fat to coat the bottom of the pan as it begins to cook, add olive oil one tablespoon at a time until the meat is frying gently, not steaming. Sauté, breaking up any large chunks, until all the meat has turned opaque (do not let it brown), about 5 minutes.

2. Add onion, carrot, celery and parsley and stir. Drizzle in more oil if the pan seems dry. Cook over very low heat, stirring often, until the vegetables have melted in the fat and are beginning to caramelize, and the meat is toasty brown. This may take as long as 40 minutes, but be patient: It is essential to the final flavors.

3. Add tomatoes and their juice, breaking up the tomatoes with your hands or with the side of a spoon. Bring to a simmer, then add thyme and rosemary and let simmer, uncovered, until thickened and pan is almost dry, 20 to 25 minutes.

4. Mix tomato paste with 1 cup hot water. Add to pan, reduce heat to very low, and continue cooking until the ragù is velvety and dark red, and the top glistens with oil, about 10 minutes more. Remove herb sprigs. Sprinkle black pepper over, stir and taste.

5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil pasta until just tender. Scoop out 2 cups cooking water, drain pasta and return to pot over low heat. Quickly add a ladleful of ragù, a splash of cooking water, stir well and let cook 1 minute. Taste for doneness. Repeat, adding more cooking water or ragù, or both, until pasta is cooked through and seasoned to your liking.

6. Pour hot pasta water into a large serving bowl to heat it. Pour out the water and pour in the pasta. Top with additional ragù, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately. Pass grated cheese at the table, if desired. Freeze the remaining ragu for future meals.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Leeks, Fennel, and Celery Root

This Sunday will be the penultimate Farmers Market of the season, so come out despite the rain. You will find fresh eggs and pastured chicken, beef, pork, and lamb from Fair Valley Farm and Fog Hollow Farm and an abundance of fresh produce from Camas Swale Farm, including a large selection of winter squash, leafy greens, onions, shallots, and leeks, and root vegetables such as beets, carrots, fennel, and celery root.

With my selection of root vegetables from last weekend's market, I decided to try a version of this recipe for creamy pasta topped with caramelized onions. This is the kind of recipe that is ridiculously easy (just coat pasta in Greek yogurt, of which I had just made a big batch in my new instant pot) and amenable to many variations, as long as you have enough sweet caramelized flavors to balance the tang of the yogurt sauce. We loved the notes of fennel and celery along with the caramelized leeks.

Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Leeks, Fennel, and Celery Root
adapted from Diane Kochilas' recipeserves 4 to 6
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large or 2 small leeks
1 small fennel bulb
1 small celery root
Sea salt
1 1/2 cups (350 g) thick, strained Greek-style yogurt (see note)
1 pound pasta
1 cup coarsely grated Pecorino Romano 

1. Place a baking sheet in the oven and start preheating it to 375 degrees F. Prepare the vegetables. Trim the roots and green parts from the leek, halve lengthwise, rinse well, and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Trim the fennel bulb and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Peel and trim the celery root and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. In a large bowl, toss the vegetables with the olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt to coat. Spread the oiled vegetables onto the preheated sheet pan. Cook the vegetables, stirring frequently, until the vegetables become nicely brown and caramelized around the edges.

2. Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. As the water heats, add enough salt so that you can taste it. Add the pasta and cook until soft, not al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. 

3. Combine the yogurt with 1/4 cup cooking water and mix well. Add more of the reserved pasta water as needed to get the sauce to your thickness. Drain the pasta and toss with the yogurt mixture and 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese. 

4. Serve the pasta immediately, sprinkled generously with cheese and topped with the caramelized vegetables. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Roasted Cauliflower Larb

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market you will find fresh eggs and pastured chicken, beef, pork, and lamb from Fair Valley Farm and Fog Hollow Farm and an abundance of fresh produce from Camas Swale Farm, including: 

incredible pearly white cauliflower (try the larb recipe below)
brussels sprouts (great stir fried)
leafy greens (delicious roasted)
winter squash pumpkins (try a pumpkin gruyere soup

I love cauliflower, but I always cook it the same way, roasted, possibly with onions. I haven't yet succumb to the cauliflower rice craze that caused Draconian rationing measures at Trader Joe's. While I could keep eating roasted cauliflower every evening, I sensed some ennui on the rest of the family. This recipe from Bon Appetit caught my attention as a way to turn roasted cauliflower into something entirely new: toss it with fish sauce and fresh herbs as filling for lettuce cups

This is an unconventional version of the Laotian meat salad called larb or laab. The recipe has quite a few ingredients that require a trip to an Asian market (lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves), but a pared down version with just the fish sauce and fresh herbs is delicious. The one ingredient that makes it larb, rather than roasted cauliflower filling, is the toasted rice powder. You could skip this too, but it's easy to make while the cauliflower is roasting, and after browning and grinding up a 1/4 cup of rice, you'll have enough for multiple batches, which is a good thing because in our family lettuce wraps are always a big hit. 

Roasted Cauliflower Larb 
lightly adapted from Bon Appetit, serves six

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into large florets with some stalk attached
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 green Thai chiles, finely chopped (or keep on the side for people to add separately)
1 3-inch piece lemongrass, tough outer layers removed, finely chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped, or use lime zest
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup glutinous (sticky) rice
5 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup chopped mint
Kosher salt
Sliced Persian cucumber and Bibb lettuce leaves (for serving)

Preheat oven to 450°. Toss cauliflower with oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until tender and well browned, 35–45 minutes. Let cool slightly; chop into pea-size pieces. Transfer to a large bowl. Add chiles (if using), lemongrass, lime leaves or zest, fish sauce, and lime juice; toss well.

Meanwhile, place rice in a medium skillet and set over medium heat. Toast, shaking pan constantly to keep rice moving, until evenly browned, 10–15 minutes. Transfer to a plate; let cool. Grind in spice mill or with a mortar and pestle to a semi-fine powder.

Toss scallions, cilantro, mint, and 2 tsp. toasted rice powder into cauliflower mixture; season with salt. Serve with lettuce, cucumber, reserved chiles, and remaining rice powder to make lettuce cups.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Caramelized Carrot Soup

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market you will find fresh eggs and pastured chicken, beef, pork, and lamb from Fair Valley Farm and Fog Hollow Farm, baked goods made with local whole grains from WildFlour Ovenfresh cut flower bouquets from Tiger Lily Art Company, and plenty of fresh produce from Camas Swale Farm, including root vegetables such as potatoes, beets, and carrots. 

My recent infatuation with pressure cooking, now that I am a proud owner of an Instant Pot, led me to this recipe for a caramelized carrot soup from modernist cuisine. The idea is that in a pressure cooker, vegetables can reach high temperatures while remaining moist, achieving the cooking reactions of roasting without drying them out. A pinch of baking soda creates an alkaline environment, which encourages the Maillard reaction of browning. The full recipe calls for a stick of butter, which I halved, and freshly extracted carrot juice, which I substituted with a ginger and lemon grass broth I had in the freezer. The soup was intensely flavorful and made a delicious accompaniment to a sandwich of baked tofu, bacon, and pickled daikon.

Caramelized Carrot Soup
Adapted from modernist cuisine
500 g carrot (about 10 medium)
4 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups carrot juice or broth, or more to desired consistency
squeeze of lemon or lime juice

In a pressure cooker use the saute setting to melt the butter. Stir in the carrots to coat with butter. Add in the water, baking soda, and salt. Cook the contents at high pressure for 20 minutes. Release the pressure naturally or after a few minutes. Puree the caramelized carrots with carrot juice or broth to desired consistency. Taste and add salt as needed. Finish with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.