Did I forget to mention…

I’m having a hard time believing I forgot to mention this, but I was accepted into the U’s Master Gardener program for 2010!

So. Excited.

(Yes, it’s 50 hours of volunteering.  About GARDENING!  and learning all the gardening stuff I thought I knew but really didn’t.  Yay!)

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sick in the head; busy in the kitchen?

Come on, not that way.

Really, I’ve spent the last 3 days hepped up on Zicam and Airborne, laying low at night, with a low-grade in-and-out fever, sore throat, general out-of-body cold experience.

Which means that any big plans for the weekend (which was GOING to be awesome) are now relegated.

At least I can wash my hands real well and bake these?

But you spread rat poison on it first. (right)?

So the one annoying thing about having a home office is that I have to have a landline to participate in conference calls and the like.  Funny story: we have a great Nordeast number but it’s apparently listed in an ancient phonebook somewhere as the number for Rainbow Foods.

So?

So we regularly get old ladies calling us asking about stamps or food preservation or how to re-crisp stale potato chips.

I’m on one such conference call today and get a voicemail while on the phone deemed blogworthy by my husband.  Says voicemail,

“I need to hear from a butcher.  I need to know if its safe to freeze ham.  I have heard over the years that you shouldn’t.  I want to hear it.  My name is Barbara and you can call me back at blah-blah-blah-blee-blah-de-blah.  Thank you.”

I mean, it IS safe to freeze ham… isn’t it?  I have half a mind to call the actual butcher and ask.  And then to pose as a butcher and call this poor woman back.

(also: Yikes.  I wouldn’t ever, EVER ask the local Big Grocery Store a food safety question.  Leave that to someone who isn’t paid minimum wage.  Yeesh.)

pillowy, sweet potato-y heaven

I wish I a) took better pictures of food and b) had thought to take a photo of our plates last week as we served up our sweet potato gnocchi.  It was incredible.

 

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with autumn fruit compote, crispy leek rings and cheese

(gnocchi adapted from epicurious.  This is going to make you a helluva lot of gnocchi dough; we made half and froze the other half of the dough.)

  • 2 pounds rinsed, patted dry sweet potatoes, pierced all over with fork
  • 1 15-ounce container fresh ricotta cheese, drained in cheesecloth
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan or unsmoked aged gouda
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 3/4 cups (about) all purpose flour

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place sweet potatoes on plate; microwave on high until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Cut in half and cool. Scrape sweet potato flesh into medium bowl and mash; transfer 3 cups to large bowl. Add ricotta cheese; blend well. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, and nutmeg; mash to blend. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms.

Turn dough out onto floured surface; divide into 6 equal pieces. Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into 20-inch-long rope (about 1 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky. Cut each rope into 20 pieces. Roll each piece over tines of fork to indent. Transfer to baking sheet.

Bring large pot of water to boil; add 2 tablespoons salt and return to boil. Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to clean rimmed baking sheet. Cool completely. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Crispy Leek Rings

  • 2 medium leeks, sliced thin (1/4″ max)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil/grapeseed oil mix (anything heat tolerant will work here — butter, canola oil, whatever you have on hand)

Heat oil til glistening in a large saucepan.  Add flour, salt and leek slices to a plastic zip-top bag; shake to coat.  Without crowding pan, toss in individual leek rings.  Sautee for about a minute or until browning begins; remove before they get too brown and drain on a paper towel.  Repeat til all leeks are crisped.  Set aside.

 

Autumn Fruit Compote

  • 3 tablespoons oil (we mix half and half olive and grapeseed here, but use what you have) — or, you can use the oil leftover from the leeks
  • 1 large honeycrisp, cortland, or other sweet tart apple, diced (peel if desired)
  • 2/3 cup craisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon Coleman’s mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1-2 tablespoons flour

On medium low, cook all ingredient but flour together until fruit is soft.  Add flour to thicken sauce.

 

To assemble:

Place gnocchi on plates.  Top with fruit compote; sprinkle shredded cheese (whatever you have left over from the gnocchi is fine) if desired.  Garnish liberally with crispy leek rings.  Devour.

 

A full day after this meal, Dave leans over and says, “duck”.  Which we’ll be adding to the fruit compote next time…

2 weeks out

This week, our CSA switches from being delivered every week to every other week. It signals several things:

  • Fall moving quickly into the winter season
  • The onslaught of storable veggies — sweet potatoes, squash, kale, beauty heart radishes, celeriac
  • Meal planning 2 weeks out instead of weekly

It’s an interesting challenge, as I have to think about what meats we have in the freezer (and which I need to venture to our local butcher to buy… this summer has seen me totally converted to butcher-for-best-meat), along with considering what we’ve preserved for use over the leaner months (Now through April… almost 6 months, here in MN), what we’ll be getting from the CSA (which gleefully takes us through January, leaving  3 miserable months with nearly no local produce and me, languishing in the grocery store with my nose upturned at lettuce from California and cardboard-flavored fruits.  Sigh.  We eat a lot of starch and cheese those three months).

Anyhow, in the interim, we’re still blissfully enjoying a plethora of greens from the farm, as well as heading wholeheartedly into soups and roots season.  Nothing wrong with that, right?

11/5: baked pork chops, honey-dill carrots and our small-batch applesauce

11/6: sweet potato gnocchi with crispy leek rings, sauteed apples & craisins, and cheese sauce; spinach salads

11/7: chicken enchiladas, rice and beans

11/8: Salmon fillets with a butternut-spinach gratin

11/9: DTs Macaroni and cheese and lettuce salads

11/10: leftover clean up

11/11: caramelized onion and cheese omelets; oven-roasted rosemary olive oil home fries

11/12: spaghetti, big salads, and garlicky bread

11/13: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, & salads, homemade bread and cherry pie

11/14: southwest steak soup

11/15: tuna noodle hotdish (don’t laugh; it’s delicious!)

11/16: Pesto chicken breasts with pasta in garlic-butter, green salads

11/17: leftover clean up

11/18: in honor of a girls’ night, I’ve been tasked with dessert, for which there will be a flourless chocolate torte and dulce de leche ice cream.