Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sausage, Lentil and Kale Soup

I have tried to deny it. I really have, but it was no use. Fall is here. Goodbye sweet summer. Your warm days, I fear, are all but in the past. Fair well my sweet sunny friend. Fall is here. It's true. It's been in the lower 40's every night this past week. Today, the high didn't even hit 60. I had to make our first fire of the season. It came on fast, and most of us are still trying to hold onto the last remaining strands of summer. Farmers markets have yet to put our fall/winter produce but it's only a matter of time. My friend Lisa over at Blue Marble Farm, refuses to even think about bringing her winter squash to the markets. She says it would be giving into the cooler weather and she wasn't ready to let all her beautiful tomatoes go.

However, there is one thing I simply adore about the cooler weather. Comfort food. Yep. Soups, stews, baked pasta dishes. They are some of my favorites. I mean, that is the point of comfort right? These dishes warm the heart and the soul. It doesn't mean that they have to be laden with fat and calories like most dishes are. In fact, soups are some of the healthiest and easiest things to make out there. It's pretty hard to screw up a soup if you ask me. The recipe for this soup is as simple as it gets. Italian sausage is sliced into rounds, browned, then cooked in a broth made from onions, garlic, carrots, tomatoes and chicken stock. Throw in some green lentils and dark leafy kale, and you have a soup that is packed with all sorts of goodness. Oh and by the way, this easily becomes a meat free dish by leaving out the sausage.

What You Need:

1 tbs olive oil
4 links, Italian sausage (Hot or Mild, your choice)
1 large bunch of Kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
2 large carrots, sliced into half moons
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can (24oz) of crushed tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
1 lb french green lentils
salt and pepper

What To Do:

Place your lentils into a large pot and cover by two to three inches of water. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
Meanwhile, heat a soup pot over medium heat. Add in the olive oil. Slice the sauce into 1/4 inch rounds and sear in the pot. Once they start to brown, add in the onions, carrots and garlic. Cook for a few minutes or until the veggies start to soften. Stir in the can of diced tomatoes and the the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and stir in your kale. Cover your pot and let the kale wilt down into the soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Drain your lentils and stir into your soup. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until the lentils have warmed through. Serve with a dollop of pesto on top if you choose. I had some garlic scape pesto that I put on top of mine.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Old mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to give her poor dog a bone, but when she got there, the cupboard was bare, and the poor little dog had none.
In my case though, this mother's fridge is bare. It's the day before grocery shopping. I go every other week as it's a 45 minute ride to the store and gas is quickly approaching $4 dollars a gallon again. I also think it saves money as I am forced to plan meals for two weeks. However, the Wednesday before I am usually trying to find something for lunch. The kids are easy as they are perfectly happy with some mac and cheese or even a pbj, myself however, I'm am not so easily satisfied. Here is what my fridge looked liked when I opened it just an hour ago to make some lunch.

I do have various things in my pantry, but even my fruit bowl was pretty empty. I did have this small yellow watermelon left from my CSA basket last week and a bit of cantaloupe, but I fear that will be gone at snack time once the kids get to it. The only other thing in there was some various greens. Oh and a cucumber!

So what's a starving girl to do? Make a salad of course!

What You Need:

a handful or two of mixed greens
1/2 c cubed watermelon
2 tbs crumbled feta cheese
5 slices cucumber
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

What To Do:

Drizzle the greens with a bit of olive oil and vinegar for your "dressing." It's simple and classic and tasty with out a ton of fat and preservatives. I'm a huge fan of F. Oliver's oils and vinegars. Today I used their blood orange olive oil and they're dark chocolate balsamic vinegar. Top your greens with the cucumber and watermelon and then sprinkle the feta on top. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper and enjoy. It's probably one of my last ode's to summer time as the weather is getting cooler fast. While I will miss all the wonderful produce I've been getting, especially the incredible tomatoes, I look forward to the wondrous flavors that fall has to offer.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sun Dried Tomatoes

Okay so they're not "sun dried" but oven dried. It's really the same thing though. Isn't it? I'm saying yes. Tomatoes become super sweet and their flavor intesifies as they are drying which gives a boost to lots of different dishes. I will tell you that it take hours upon hours and even some more hours after that to produce sun dried tomatoes. This is probably why they're so darn expensive in stores. However, it is harvest season, so you should be able to go to your local farmers or farmer's market and pick up some incredible tomatoes for a reasonable price. I get mine from two different farmers. The tomatoes I canned and made tomato sauce from, cam from my friends over at Blue Marble Farm. The sweet little beauties that I decided to dry came from Living Acres Farm. So why these guys and not my super market? Well that's easy enough to answer. Get a tomato from a local farmer, then get a tomato from you local super market. Now take a bite of each. The super market tomatoes taste like, well, nothing. Now the tomatoes from my farmer friends? Well each variety has their own taste. Some are sweet and less acidic. Some have that acid bite that people look for in a good tomato. Think that all tomatoes are these perfect round, pinkish red (and I use the word red loosely here), globes? You'd be wrong again. They come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. My favorite are these small deep purple, almost black in color. They make a great sweet snack and were the ones I kept raving about last year on facebook. My favorite this year has been these two or three bite yellow ones. I eat them as if they were an apple. You can't keep me away from tomatoes this time of year, which is probably why I ended up with 2+ bushels. When you find out what tomatoes are really like, they become almost like candy and something I can't leave alone. Oh and one more thing, the uglier the tomato, the better it tastes.  Onto the recipe shall we?

What You Need:

salt (optional)

What To Do:

You can peel the tomatoes if you choose. I did not as I had already peeled a good 200 tomatoes. Slice the tomatoes in half and remove the core. Remove the seeds. Depending on the size, you may need to quarter them. I used some smaller ones, the two biters as my fried calls them, so I just left them in half. Place them on a cooling wrack, that fits on a baking sheet. This is so that air can circulate around all sides of the tomatoes. Line your tomatoes up on the cooling wrack so that they do not over lap or touch. Give them a sprinkle of salt if you so desire and pop them into your oven. Now here's the hours and hours part. The lowest temp setting on my oven is 170 which was perfect for drying. I can't tell you how long it took. I put them in during the early afternoon and shut it off just before 10pm when I went to bed. They were getting close to being done at the time but I was worried that they would become over done if I let it go all night. So I turned the oven back on in the morning around 7am and by about 10:30 most of them were done. I have a few that were still a bit damp so I let them go a while longer. You know they're done when they don't feel sticky, wet or mushy. They should be leathery in feeling and not brittle. Brittle means they've "dried" to long. I let mine cool and stored them in a mason jar in my freezer. If you're going to use them within a week or so, you can soak them in olive oil but I haven't been able to find safely preserve them in oil unless you freeze them of course.
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