Monthly Archives: October 2009

Yummy Vegetables (and Cream of Roasted Fennel Soup)

We got our first of three winter CSA distributions on Saturday.  Look at all the great things we got!

First Winter CSA Distribution

We got about 35 lbs of produce including apples, kale, various squashes, leeks, celery, parsnips, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, peppers, cabbage, fennel, and a kohlrabi.  The bounty covered most of our kitchen island.  The biggest challenge is trying to find the right storage for all these vegetables. 

So far, everything we have eaten has been delicious.  The apples are super fresh, the carrots are sweet, and the celery has more flavor than any celery I have had before.  Tonight for dinner we made a cream of roasted fennel soup.  We didn’t take any pictures because, honestly, we weren’t really expecting much.  Fennel is one of those vegetables that I think people either love or hate.  The flavor is pretty distinct and strong.  I expected the soup to be strongly flavored of licorice.  Turns out, it was really delicious.  Roasting the fennel and cooking it with onions, potato, some half-and-half, and cumin creates a rich and creamy soup with subtle undertones of fennel.  I am posting the recipe for all those other CSA members out there who don’t know what to do with their fennel.

Cream of Roasted Fennel Soup

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Simple Soups and Stews


1-2 fennel bulbs (about 1 1/2 to 2 lbs)

1 large white onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 tsp kosher salt

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 cup half-and-half

2 tbls lemon juice

1/2 tsp ground cumin

To Make:

Trim tough stalks and bottom stem from fennel bulb.  Cut the bulb into 1/2 inch slices.  Arrange the fennel and onion on a baking sheet, toss with the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt.  Roast in a 375 degree oven until the vegetables are tender but not browned, about 25 minutes.

Transfer the roasted fennel and onion to a soup pot.  Add the stock and potato.  Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.  Puree in a blender in batches (or all at once with a stick blender).  Return the mixture to the soup pot and stir in the lemon juice, cumin, and half-and-half.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To Serve:

Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a first course.



Filed under CSA Talk, Recipes, Soup, Vegetarian

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

We got our first winter CSA distribution this weekend.  For us, these distributions are like Christmas.  The excitement is palpable as we unpack our boxes.  We lay all the vegetables and fruit out on the kitchen island and ooo and ahh over the bounty.  You might here things such as, “Yay, we got turnips” and, “awesome, we finally have leeks…  It’s been too long since we’ve had leeks.”   Trying to eat seasonally means that we haven’t really enjoyed many of these veggies since last fall.

Squash - cubed, seasoned, and ready to roast

Our first order of business (after the vegetable fawning) was to put together a soup using a very large butternut squash we had from our last summer distribution, some of the great ingredients we got from our winter share (celery, onion, carrots), and the last of our smoked chicken stock that we made this summer.  The soup is a thick, stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup.  It is nice as a first course and equally good as the meal.  Roasting the squash and garlic sweetens and intensifies the flavors of both vegetables.  The soup takes a little while because of the roasting, but is simple to put together.

Veggies ready for the heat


1 large butternut squash (2-3 lbs)

2 tbls vegetable oil

1 small-to-medium head of garlic

2 tbls butter

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

3 small carrots, chopped

4 celery ribs, chopped

3 cups chicken stock

4 cups water

1 1/2 tsp oregano

1 1/2 tsp thyme

2 tbls honey

2 tbls lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup half-and-half*

To Make:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and halve the squash.  Scoop out the seeds (discard) and roughly chop the squash.  Toss the squash chunks with the oil, spread on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast the squash until tender, about 60 minutes.  Meanwhile, cut the top off of the head of garlic.  Drizzle with olive oil, place in a small baking dish, and cover tightly with foil.  Roast in the oven (with the squash) for about 30 minutes or until softened and lightly browned.

While the squash and garlic are roasting, heat a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the chopped onions, carrots, and celery and saute until softened and golden, about 25 minutes.  Add the stock, water, oregano, thyme, garlic cloves, and squash.  Bring to a gentle boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes.

Using a stick blender or a regular blender, puree the soup until smooth (be sure to puree in batches if using a traditional blender and watch out for steam).  Stir in the honey and lemon juice and cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.  Right before serving, remove from heat and stir in the half and half.

To Serve:

Serves 8 as a soup course, 4-6 as a main course

* If you wanted a lower calorie soup, you could substitute buttermilk for the half-and-half, just omit the lemon juice.

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Filed under Recipes, Soup, Vegetarian

Pot Roast

Pot Roast

Pot Roast

Continuing along the comfort food road, we decided on a recent, rainy Saturday that it was time to break out the crock pot for the first pot roast of the season.  I believe that in a good pot roast, the meat is falling-apart tender and the vegetables are kept pretty simple.  We like to make ours nice and rich with a flavorful wine and broth sauce. 

Chuck steaks / roasts generally make the best pot roast.  These cuts have a good amount of connective tissue and need long, slow cooking to render them tender.  They also have a nice meaty flavor that can stand up to rich sauces.  We used a 7 bone chuck steak but pretty much any cut of chuck will do. 

Searing the Chuck Steak

Searing the Chuck Steak

You could probably do this in the oven but I haven’t had much luck getting the level of tenderness that I like that way.  The crockpot is easy, generally foolproof, and allows you to put all the ingredients together in the morning and forget about them until dinner.  We always take the additional step of searing the meat over high heat before adding to the crockpot.  Yes, it takes extra time and means there is another pan to wash but it adds such great flavor to the meat that it shouldn’t be skipped.  Serve the whole thing with some crusty bread and a glass of the red wine.

Vegetables waiting for the meat

Vegetables waiting for the meat

Pot Roast


1 1.5-2 lb chuck steak

1 red onion, sliced

2 ribs of celery, chopped

3 small potatoes, chopped

7 oz sliced baby bell mushrooms

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 bay leaf

2 tbls tomato paste

1/2 cup water with 1 tsp beef bouillon or 1/2 cup concentrated beef stock

1/2 cup good quality red wine (never cook with a wine that you wouldn’t drink)

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp thyme

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper to taste

2 tbls flour

To Make:

Trim any excess fat from your roast.  Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat.  Rub the meat with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Sear two minutes on all sides until browned.

Place the onions, celery, potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms in a slow cooker and sprinkle with the thyme, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.  Place the roast on top and add the bay leaf.  Mix the wine, water and bouillon / broth, and tomato paste and pour over the meat.  Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours, until the meat is fork tender. 

In the last 30 minutes, remove about 1/2 cup of the liquid, place in a bowl, and add the flour.  Whisk together until well incorporated.  Pour back into the crockpot and stir to incorporate.  Set the heat to high, remove the lid, and cook for another 25 minutes, or until the gravy has thickened.

To Serve:

Pull any bones out of the meat and remove the bay leaf.  Place slices of meat on the plate, add the vegetables, and spoon the gravy over the top.  Serves 4.

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Filed under Meat, Recipes

Greek Inspired Meatloaf with Tomato Jam

Meatloaf - Cooked and Ready to Serve

Greek Inspired Meatloaf with Tomato Jam

When the weather gets colder, it seems like classic comfort foods start to get a lot more attention in our kitchen.  I don’t think anyone could argue that meatloaf is about as classic as it gets.  The problem with meatloaf though, is that I really didn’t like it much when I was growing up.  I never had a hankering for meatloaf, never ordered it in diners, and I never really got excited when someone cooked it for me.  My biggest problem with meatloaf was that all too often it was a dry hunk of rather tasteless beef topped with a sickly sweet ketchup sauce.  Did I mention that I don’t really care much for mass-produced ketchup either? 

Then I met my husband, a bone fide meatloaf lover.  He likes to get creative with meatloaf and suddenly I found myself *gasp* enjoying the creations he concocted.  Meatloaf with pepperoni and bacon, meatloaf with a cheesy layer in the middle, meatloaf with lots of spices and nary a spoonful of ketchup in sight.  His meatloaf is never dry; his secret ingredient is evaporated milk.  It sounds strange but it keeps the meatloaf moist without making it soupy. 

Half the Meatloaf in the pan with the Feta Cheese Layer

Meat and feta cheese layer

We developed this meatloaf because we were looking to recreate a delicious moussaka we made earlier in the summer.  The spice combination was very tasty and we felt that it would translate well to a meatloaf.  We made this with ground beef but if there had been any ground lamb in the house, we definitely would have included it as well.  Combine the ground beef with moussaka spices, a layer of feta cheese, and top with a spiced tomato jam and you have a meatloaf that even I can get behind.

Meatloaf ready for the oven topped with Tomato Jam

Meatloaf ready to bake

Greek Inspired Meatloaf


About 1 lb ground beef or a mix of ground beef and ground lamb

1 small red onion, finely chopped

4 oz evaporated goat’s milk (you can substitute regular evaporated milk if desired)

1 egg

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 1/2 teaspoon dried mint

salt and pepper to taste

 1/2 cup bread crumbs

4 oz feta cheese – crumbled

1 recipe Tomato Jam (see below)

To Make:

Preheat your oven to 375F.  In a medium bowl combine the red onion, egg, evaporated goats milk, and the tomato paste.  Use your wicked (awesome) whisk to mix.  Add in the spices and bread crumbs and whisk to combine.  Add the ground meat and mix by hand until just integrated.    Be gentle and don’t overmix or the loaf will be tough.  Form the ground beef into a ball and divide in half.  Using a meatloaf pan (a basic loaf pan with a false bottom) or a loaf pan, layer half the meat and sprinkle with the feta cheese.

Top with the remaining meat and spread the tomato jam on the top. Bake the loaf in oven for 50 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads between 155F and 170F.  The loaf should rest 10-15 minutes before serving.

To Serve:

This meatloaf serves four people.

Tomato Jam

Adapted from a recipe in the New York Times


About 1 lb of fresh tomatoes, cored and chopped

1/2 – 2/3 cup sugar (we used 2/3 cup and it was pretty sweet, use less sugar for a less sweet jam)

Juice of half a lemon

2 tsp fresh ginger, minced

Rounded 1/2 tsp cumin

Rounded 1/8 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

To Make:

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan set over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has the consistency of thick jam.  About 1 hour and 15 minutes.


Filed under Meat, Recipes