Recipe: pasta with beets

This tasty and colorful pasta is a great way to use early summer beets.

1 bunch beets
1–2 Tbl butter
1 Tbl. cider vinegar
1 Tbl. olive oil
2 cloves garlic or alliums of choice
~2 ounces cheese, crumbled or grated
1 bunch chives (optional)
1/2 pound pasta of choice

Thinly slice (or grate) the beet roots. Heat butter in a skillet on low-medium heat. Add beets and cook until tender, ~10–15 min. Season with cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. Remove from heat & set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water for the pasta. Check the recommended cooking time for the pasta. The goal is to time the pasta so it finishes cooking when the greens are done.

Mince the garlic. Wash the beet greens and slice into thin ribbons. Mince chives, if using. Start to cook the pasta in salted, boiling water.

Heat olive oil in a skillet on low heat. Eight or so minutes before the pasta is done, sauté the garlic in the oil for a minute or so. Add the greens & cook until tender, approx. 4-6 minutes. Add the cheese & chives (if using).

When the pasta is al dente, drain it. Toss beets, greens, and pasta together. Serve with extra cheese.

Recipe: fresh Filipino chili paste

This recipe makes a strong, hot, and flavorful seasoning paste, similar to a chili or curry paste, that can be used for Filipino or other Asian cooking. I’ve adapted it from the original in The Filipino-American Kitchen, making it fit the seasonal ingredients we have on hand. Even cutting out a few authentic ingredients like fish sauce and shrimp paste, it works nicely as a flavoring or dipping sauce.

The original calls for garlic cloves & green onions, which is fine, but I find that using garlic & onion chives instead works quite nicely to produce a smooth, green paste. And at this time of the year it’s more seasonal, and is a great way to use lots of chives if you have them on hand.

1 big bunch garlic chives (maybe a few ounces?) or a couple garlic cloves
1-2 tsp grated ginger
1 equal bunch onion chives (or minced green onion)
1 dried or fresh Thai chili pepper (adjust to taste)
1 tsp sugar
2 tbl olive oil
1-2 tsp soy sauce

Mince whatever combination of chives/garlic/onions you’re using, along with the hot pepper. Grind in a large mortar & pestle until crushed into goo, then add the other ingredients and grind more until you have a smooth paste. I suppose this could be done in a small blender as well, though I haven’t tried it (I like the crushed texture of this method).

At this point you can taste the base flavor and add anything else you want, like curry powder, other herbs, other sauces, etc. It should be a strong, garlicky paste with some heat to it.

I’ve used this to flavor various sauces, and it could also be a nice dipping sauce for spring rolls, shrimp, and more. The original recipe calls for cooking chicken in the paste and combining with rice. Use your imagination.

I most recently used it to flavor a tomato/edamame sauce, which I combined with rice & marinated meat in my lumpiang (Filipino egg rolls):

Recipe: German roast & noodles

I made this last Wednesday, a long and tiring day in which we did a lot of work with multiple employees, and badly needed to replenish calories. Hearty and tasty, it required very little work at the end, just some preparation a few days ahead. It probably took me 20 minutes once it was time for dinner at 8:30pm. No photos, unfortunately, because my camera is dead and Joanna’s doesn’t do indoor photos well. I make variations on this kind of German cooking all winter and early spring, but finally paid attention enough to write it up this time.

Beer-marinated venison roast with gravy-noodles & sauerkraut
all quantities estimated, as I just threw this together

1-2 lb meat, in this case a venison roast
3/4 bottle good beer (the other 1/4 for the chef)
1/2-1 cup dried or chopped onions
1/2-1 cup dried or chopped tomatoes
2t caraway seeds
2T cider vinegar
2T brown sugar
Some water if necessary to nearly cover the meat
Salt as desired

I made this with our own dried onions and tomatoes, which made the preparation super-easy with no chopping needed. I like the way they worked with the liquids, but fresh produce would work too. Combine everything and let sit for a few days. When ready, stick into a 350F oven and bake for a few hours. Browning the meat would be better, but I didn’t have time as I literally came back to the house from the field just long enough to throw it in the oven for later; it came out good enough.

2T butter
2T flour
Pan juices
Some good German noodles, spaetzle or otherwise

When the meat is nearly done, melt butter in a small pan, and add flour to make a basic roux. Stir until thick and starting to brown. Drain/spoon off a good amount of the remaining liquid in the meat dish, and whisk into the roux. Keep stirring/whisking for a few minutes to produce a nice, thick gravy. It should be a good balance of sweet and sour with undertones of the onion and meat; add vinegar or sugar as necessary to get the flavor right. Meanwhile, cook the noodles in a separate pan.

When the noodles are done, remove the meat from the oven and from its baking dish. Mix the rest of the cooking liquid, especially the onions & tomatoes, into the gravy and combine with the noodles. This should result in a thick, rich sauce on the noodles, which are then ladled onto a plate next to the carved roast. If you want, reserve a bit of the gravy to ladle over the meat, which should be tender and flake nicely. Serve with sauerkraut on the side.

In our version, we used our own venison, home-dried onions & tomatoes, home-fermented sauerkraut, and Boulevard wheat beer.

Recipe: Sinigang (Filipino hot/sour soup)

Here’s a very nice winter soup that’s easy to make, with an excellent hot & sour flavor. My version is loosely based on a recipe from The Filipino-American Kitchen, by Jennifer Aranas; I use tamarind and calamansi as the souring agents instead of vinegar along with some other changes. This is a pretty adaptable dish as long as you get the basics right. Compare also to this online recipe.


The necessary ingredients are calamansi juice, which you can get in frozen packets, and tamarind. This can be gotten in various forms; for this soup I used a Filipino salted tamarind candy whose name I forget. It comes in sleeves with little pods of tamarind flesh around the seed; I’m not fond of them outright, but they work great as little self-contained bouillon cubes in a recipe like this. When the soup is done, the flesh has melted away and you just need to keep an eye out for the seed (or remove it beforehand). Below are the calamansi packets I use (1/2oz each) and the tamarind candies. Both are available at Meechu’s. I also added some thin Mung bean noodles for texture.
If you can’t get these items, lime juice is a decent substitute for calamansi and mild vinegar (like rice vinegar) can replace the tamarind. You’ll have to play around with quantities.
Most of the quantities are approximate; taste as it simmers to get the flavor right for your preference. I like it pretty hot and sour; if you’re not sure, hold back a bit on the pepper and tamarind until you see how it develops. Add rice vinegar if it’s not sour enough.
2 quarts poultry or vegetable broth
1 decent-sized chunk ginger, grated
1 medium-strength Thai chili, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1lb tomatoes, diced small
2-3T soy sauce
2 (1/2oz)packets calamansi juice
2 tamarind candies, about dice-sized
1/2lb daikon radish, sliced thin or grated
Hefty handful mung bean noodles or similar thin noodles
dash of dried basil
black pepper to taste
Heat broth to a simmer. Add all ingredients except daikon & noodles, and simmer for as long as you want to combine the flavors (at least an hour). You want a decent burn from the pepper and a strong but not curdling sourness.
When you’re about 15 minutes from eating, add the daikon and any other vegetables or greens you want. Don’t overdo it; this should be a thin, brothy soup rather than a stew. Soak the noodles in warm water for 5 minutes, then drain & add to soup and cook another ten. After ladling into bowls, sprinkle dried basil & black pepper on top for a dash of flavor and color.
Let me know if you try this and what you thought. Alternatve versions could include seafood (shrimp or mild fish), in which case you should replace some of the soy sauce with fish sauce and, or regular meats like pork.

Recipe: sauerbraten stew

I invented this dish on-the-fly last weekend, on a day we spent butchering our last kid and didn’t have much time to cook but did have lots of fresh meat on hand. It turned out wonderfully, and is an easy way to use typical winter items like meat, root vegetables, and rice. It’s based on typical ways I make sauerbraten (German sour roast), but turned into more of a casserole-bake than a full meat dish, but with the right taste. I would think it would be good without the meat, too, for those with such preferences. The ingredient quantities are rough, as I just tossed things together as seemed right.

Preheat oven to 400.

1lb decent stew meat, chunked or sliced
1 good red onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet potato, diced
1 large yellow potato, diced
(other root vegetables as desired)
1/4-1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4-1/2 cup white wine
1/4-1/2 cup apple juice
salt, pepper, and parsley (fresh or dried) to taste

Heat some oil or butter in a pan, and briefly saute the onions and garlic. Add and brown the meat on all sides. Transfer these to a deep baking dish with a cover. Deglaze the pan with the wine, then the vinegar, and add these to the baking dish. Add the potatoes or other vegetables, apple juice, and seasonings, and mix everything thoroughly. Add enough water to fill about halfway up the depth of the ingredients. Bake for at least one hour, or until potatoes are soft. Serve alone, or over rice. Goes very well with pickles, sauerkraut, applesauce, or other such sides.

Recipe: roasted beet salad

Fresh spring beets are a delicacy. We grow multiple heirloom varieties with different colors, which offer many possibilities for good, simple meals. American cooking tends to reduce beets to an overcooked purple pulp, which is a real shame. I think beets are best lightly cooked, or even better roasted, which brings out their sweetness and flavor. Here’s an easy way to use a bundle of fresh heirloom beets from the market; remember to save the greens for cooking or making broth.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Peel the beets and slice cross-ways into thin circles, maybe 1/4′ thick. You want them solid, but not chunky. Evenness will help them roast correctly together. Toss the beets in a bowl with some olive oil, black pepper, salt, and a bit of apple cider vinegar. When the oven is ready, spread the beets on a baking sheet and drizzle the rest of the oil over them. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until they are partially tender but still solid (NOT mushy).

Prepare a simple salad base of fresh lettuce, maybe some nuts and raisins, and top with the roasted beets. A bit of feta cheese goes very nicely on this as well. A simple oil and vinegar dressing works well, so you don’t overwhelm the natural flavors of the beets.

Simple, but delicious for a light spring meal or side.

Recipe: garlic scape pesto

There are lots of ways to use this fresh market product, usually available around early-mid June, but this is one of our favorites. It’s easy, unique, and a real seasonal treat. The result is a thick garlic-flavored paste that can be spread on crackers and bread, or used on pasta. There are lots of recipes out there, which I’ve perused and distilled into this common version that can be used in any amount.

Combine chopped garlic scapes, olive oil, and grated hard cheese in a 2:1:1 ratio. For reference, one of our standard bundles of six good-sized scapes will chop into 1/2-3/4 cup. This is enough for one meal, as the result is reasonably strong and you don’t need a lot. If you make more, it freezes well. In any case, throw all these items into a blender until you get a nice paste. Add some lemon juice, salt, and/or nuts as desired, and you’re done.

This can be used as-is, or combined with other items to make a nicer sauce. In the example below, I added fresh chopped snap peas and some rehydrated dried red peppers from last summer, plus some extra grated Walloon cheese from Goatsbeard Farm. Quick, easy meal.

Recipe: spiced sweet squash soup

This is a basic desperation soup, something I threw together using what I had on hand in the depths of winter. I often struggle with squash soups, particularly when using frozen squash, as the flavors are tough to get right and the squash often swallows whatever spices are used. This one came out reasonably well, so I’ll share it for inspirational purposes. This was heavily adapted from a Moosewood recipe.

1 quart cooked squash (fresh or frozen)
1 cup onions
2T butter or oil
4 cloves garlic
Fresh ground spice mix, including things like cumin, coriander, cloves, black pepper, hot pepper, mustard, and turmeric
1 cup yogurt or milk
1/4-1/2 cup honey and/or sorghum syrup

Saute the onions & garlic in butter. Add spices, then a little water and simmer a few minutes. Add squash and cook until heated, then puree with an immersion or other blender. Keeping heat low, gently stir in yogurt or milk, then the honey and/or sorghum. Simmer gently as long as needed to allow flavors to blend. The spices provide a background, while the sweeteners balance the potential for squash to be strong or bitter flavored. Serve alone or over rice.

Like many of our recipes, this one is crying out for customization. Adapt to your own tastes and ideas, tasting as you go until you get what you want (that’s how I came up with this particular iteration).

Recipe: Spicy winter bean stew

We make lots of soups in the winter, and not just because they’re warm. They also rely nicely on the types of ingredients that are easy to preserve for winter, and maximize those ingredients’ qualities while minimizing their drawbacks. For example, frozen green beans will never taste as good on their own as fresh, but in a soup they’re great. This is, incidentally, one of the keys to eating seasonally: use items appropriately and don’t expect to eat the same things year-round. Enjoy them for what they are when they are.

This recipe is something I whipped up last night for an easy meal. If using dried beans you have to start ahead enough to cook them, but if you have a bunch pre-cooked (as we sometimes do) this takes no time at all. Many wonderful soups can be made with entirely locally grown ingredients; the variety of soups alone lays waste to the claim that local foods in winter have to be boring. Just to make the point, I’ll note the source of all the ingredients, most of which are ours but could easily have been purchased and preserved from local farmers (like us) in season.

A bit of olive oil (purchased)
Several cups chopped onion (ours, stored)
4-5 cloves garlic (ours, stored)
hot peppers, minced, to taste (ours)
2 tsp paprika (bulk purchase)
1/4 cup chopped basil (ours, frozen)
1 quart broth (our goose broth, frozen)
1-2 cups sweet potatoes, chopped (ours, stored)
1-2 cups tomatoes, chopped (our winter tomatoes, stored)
1-2 cups green beans, chopped (ours, frozen)
1 cup corn (ours, frozen)
3-4 cups cooked mixed beans (kidneys and pintos from Bellows Creek Farm, MO)
Salt and pepper to taste (bulk purchase)

Saute onions, garlic, hot peppers, and paprika in the olive oil for a few minutes until aromatic. We used several of our Thai Hot peppers to achieve a nice burn; it really adds to the stew on a cold night. Dump in everything else, and allow to simmer until proper thickness has been achieved (I made this very thick by cooking off much of the liquid). Add salt and pepper to taste. The longer you allow to simmer or even sit, the more blended the flavors will be. This is the type of stew that gets better the next day. Good served as is or over rice.

The last point to make about soups like this is that they’re infinitely variable. Don’t run out to buy green beans to follow this recipe if you don’t have them. Substitute something else you do have; okra, potatoes, spinach, peas, whatever. Soups and stews are something every cook should be able to throw together with whatever is on hand, with a bit of experimentation and experience guiding the way. This recipe is a guideline, not a blueprint. Enjoy!

Recipe: simple tomato & green bean sauce

This is a very simple, useful recipe that uses entirely locally available products. Made in summer or fall with fresh ingredients, it’s a lovely taste of harvest. Made in winter from preserved and stored produce, it brings back memories of summer and still tastes quite nice.

This kind of recipe relies almost entirely on the natural flavors of the tomatoes and beans, and so requires the use of really good local produce. It’s not going to taste like much if made from commercially canned or store-bought California produce. Use the best-tasting varieties you can find. In winter, we use our shelf-stored Mercuri tomatoes for that fresh tomato taste, and our frozen green beans.

1 small onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh, frozen, or canned)
2 cups green beans, cut to desired size (fresh, frozen, or canned)
salt & pepper to taste
OPTIONAL: cooked rice

Saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes in oil. Add the chopped tomatoes, and simmer 10-20 minutes until much of the liquid has boiled away, leaving a thicker sauce. Add the green beans and cook just long enough to achieve your desired tenderness (we like them still a bit crunchy). Add salt & pepper as needed.

Serve as a side, or as a topping for fish or meat. For a solid main dish, mix with cooked rice to make a casserole kind of thing. Makes a great lunch.