Friday, August 28, 2009

Corn Chowder with Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuits

Continuing the soup kick that permeated my summer, I could not resist the opportunity to use some of my CSA corn for a chowder. Also, I had two large bulbs of fennel, and I read that fennel can be a great addition to soup. Finally, I had both carrots and celery from my CSA, so really, how could I not make some kind of soup?

Homemade chowder is a little tricky for me, though, because I cannot bring myself to purchase any dairy product creamier than 1% (and the 1% was a compromise with my husband - I would really prefer skim). It takes a really special ganache for me to bring out the heavy cream.

Luckily, has an amazing chowder recipe that can use any type of milk (and also uses bacon fat, but somehow I don't have the same reservation about bacon fat...). The way this chowder slowly simmers with an amazing assortment of hearty flavors (bacon, carrot, celery, bay leaf) creates a really flavorful soup.

To me, a hearty, savory soup is not complete without some kind of bread. Tonight, that bread was biscuits. While I periodically have buttermilk in the fridge, I don't keep it as a staple since I can't go through a container fast enough. However, a few years back my mother-in-law let me in on a little secret: powdered buttermilk. Is it as good as the real thing? Not quite. Would I use it in buttermilk pancakes: in a pinch, but don't expect pancakes quite as fluffy and rich. Nonetheless, it works in biscuits! So biscuits we had.

Corn Chowder with Chicken
Adapated from

1 T unsalted butter
1 strip of bacon or 1 t of bacon fat (sub 1/2 T butter for vegetarian)
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup) I was out of onion and substituted fennel, which could also be added with the onion
1/2 large carrot, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 celery stalk, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
3 ears sweet corn, kernels removed from the cobs (about 2 cups), cobs reserved
1 bay leaf
3-1/2 cups milk, whole or low fat
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, or Ruesset, peeled and diced I was out of potato, and it was fine without!
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 t fresh thyme leaves
Leftover chicken to taste

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the bacon strip and fry until the bacon renders its fat, but doesn't begin to brown, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the onion (and/or fennel) and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add the carrot and celery and cook for 4 or 5 more minutes.

Break the corn cobs in half and add them to the saucepan. Add the milk and boy leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Make sure the heat is as low as can be and still maintain a gentle simmer to prevent scalding the milk.

Discard the cobs, the bacon strip, and the bay leaf. Raise the heat, add the potatoes (if using), red pepper, 1 t of salt, fresh ground pepper, bring to a simmer and reduce heat to maintain a simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender.

Raise the heat, add the corn kernels, thyme and leftover chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Serves 4

Buttermilk Biscuits
From SACO Foods

4 T SACO buttermilk blend
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
2 t granulated sugar
1/3 cup solid shortening (I used butter. Shortening will make for a flakier biscuit, though)
2/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 450. In large mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Cut in shortening thoroughly until mixture resembles corn meal. Add water and mix until dough is pliable. Do not overbeat. Turn dough onto lightly-floured surface and knead for about 30 sec (20 to 25 times). Roll or pat 1/2 inch thick, no less. Cut with floured biscuit cutter. Place close together on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes one dozen 2-1/2 inch biscuits.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Earlier this year I discovered a site,, that I have come to rely on for all types of baking recipes. I've made quite a few of their recipes at this point, and have not been disappointed. In fact, their Lemon Tart recipe still stands as my favorite dessert of the Summer of 2009.

I visited again recently looking for a good oatmeal cookie recipe. Earlier this summer I received a 5-pound bag of oats from my CSA. I've slowly been working through it (including bringing it to Maine and back on vacation), but I'm finding now that fall weather is descending upon New England, I'm finding a lot of great recipes that call for oats. One warning (which really applies to any cookie recipe using butter) - I over-softened the butter in this batch, so the final product spread more than it should have. One other note... forgot to take a picture of the final product! (Possibly related to my butter error? No, never....):

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 t pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground cinnamon
3-cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet; other options are white or dark chocolate chips, dried cranberries, cherries, or raisins)

To toast nuts: Preheat oven to 350 and toast nuts 8-10 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool and chop into pieces. Set aside.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth (about 2-3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla exract and beat to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat until incorporated. Stir in the nuts, oats, and dried cranberries or chocolate chips.

For large cookies, use 1/4 cup of batter and space the cookies about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Then wet your hand and flatten the cookies slightly with your fingers so they are about 1/2 inch thick. Bake the cookies for about 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees, or until light golden brown around the edges but still soft and a little wet in the centers. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 20-24 large cookies

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summer Sides: Baked Beans and Pasta Salad

Admittedly, I haven't been doing as much from-scratch cooking in the past few weeks as I would prefer (thank running my own consulting business and watching my kids for that - wait, did I say that exact same thing last week?). At any rate, during these stretches I'm a big fan of short-cut cooking, which I realize is a little bit cheating. (For more on this, check out Michael Pollan's July 29, 2009 New York Times article Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch.) Despite the affect I may be having on the decline on American cooking, sometimes it's just a reality. And the reality I was faced with this week was onions.

Lots of onions.

So I turned to one of my favorite summer side dish recipes, Molasses Baked Beans, which I knew would use at least some onion. The ingredients I used weren't the most local, or the most high-fructose-corn-syrup-free, both of which I normally try to be very cognizant of. However, with scouting out the right ingredients you actually could make it both local and HFCS-free.

Molasses Baked Beans
Adapted from All You
6 slices bacon, cut into a 1/2-inch dice
1 onion, chopped
3 (18 oz) jars/cans baked beans
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
3 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T dry mustard
1/2 t kosher salt

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain fat. Discard all but 1 T fat from pan. Add onion to skillet and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in beans, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard and salt. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 25 minutes.
For my second summer side, I really wanted to use as much of my fresh CSA produce and goodies as possible, so I decided to make an impromptu pasta salad. The real key for me in this dish was the fresh feta cheese from Bonnieview Farm in South Albany, VT, that came in my delivery. This cheese was surprisingly unsalty, which complemented nicely with the kalamata olives and Italian dressing I also included in the salad. To make this dish as healthy as possible I used a lot of fresh Pete's Greens summer squash and high fiber pasta (I'm partial to Ronzoni Smart Taste). I just scaled the ingredients to the portion size I wanted, making sure to use serving sizes on any boxes/bottles for ingredients that were not fresh produce.

Summer Pasta Salad
Scaled for 3 servings
3 oz high fiber pasta (such as Ronzoni Smart Taste)
1 summer squash, sliced
1 small jar quartered marinated artichokes, rinsed
8 kalamata olives, sliced
2 T lite Italian salad dressing
Fresh basil or other herbs
Feta cheese to taste

Boil the pasta according to the package directions. Add the sliced zucchini during the last couple of minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water.

Dice the cooked zucchini and toss in a bowl with pasta, artichokes, olives and Italian dressing. Top with fresh herbs and feta right before serving.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Veggie-Leek Chowder

For some reason I've been on a soup kick lately, specifically chowder. I think the catalyst was a soup I had a few days ago from Sweet Clover Market in Essex, VT. It was a tomatillo-corn chowder. Each bite (or slurp) had an incredible burst of flavor, all at once spicy (in an herby sort of way) and creamy and earthy. It was the kind of food experience that I dream about at night and fantasize about days later as I eat a turkey sandwich on stale bread for lunch.

As I told the clerk at Sweet Clover while I was purchasing the soup (after trying a free sample), I love to cook... but I couldn't cut it as a chef. I don't have that talent or education to combine flavors in a way that make people drool for my food a week later.

Despite this lack of James Beard-level cooking ability, I still like to give it my all. So, I looked for a recipe to use a bunch of leeks from my week eight CSA, as well as a glistening container of chicken stock from a previous week. I came across a Potato, Corn and Leek Chowder recipe. First problem, no potatoes in the house. Second problem, only frozen corn (not ideal, but ok in a pinch). So, I made a few adaptations to incorporate more of my CSA veggies, and still managed to get a chowder (a lightened chowder, I might add) on the table. This soup would be great with so many different summer veggies and herbs. Use what you have on hand.

Veggie-Leek Chowder
Adapted from Cooking Light

2 T butter
1 T olive oil (I used sunflower oil again)
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped leek
1/2 cup finely chopped purple pepper (or celery)
1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
2 cups whole milk
3 T flour
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels (or 2 cups fresh)
1 cubed zucchini (or 2 lbs cubed Yukon gold or red potato)
1 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
3 T chopped fresh chives

Heat butter and oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leek, purple pepper, and red pepper; cook 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Combine milk and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Slowly add milk mixture to pan, stirring constantly. Stir in broth, corn, zucchini, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in parsley and chives.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Blueberry-Strawberry Salad with Homemade Croutons

Week seven happened to occur right smack in the middle of an incredibly busy week for me (being an independent freelancer has it perks, but sometimes I work ALL the time), so I didn't do a lot of creative cooking. I did, though, manage to put together some basic dishes using the produce, and was especially grateful for strawberries (everyone in my family loves them), zucchini (one of the few veggies my picky 4-year old will eat) and eggs, which are so versatile.

It dawned on me while I was throwing together a simple salad for dinner that every single ingredient in the dish I was making, while not all sourced from my CSA, was local. I was pretty excited about this, as I couldn't remember any other specific example from dishes past that used all local ingredients, from soup to nuts. Or should I say, from lettuce to croutons.

Blueberry-Strawberry Salad with Homemade Croutons

Bag of mesclun greens (Pete's Greens CSA)
1 pint strawberries, sliced (also Pete's Greens)
1 pint blueberries (Paul Mazzas in Essex, VT)
1/2 loaf day-old bread, cubed (Pete's Greens, baked by Red Hen Baking Co.)
1 T butter (I used Cabot Coop)
2 T olive or sunflower oil (I used sunflower oil from CSA)
Maple Grove Ginger Pear Salad Dressing

Place greens in a salad bowl, and top with sliced strawberries and blueberries.

Melt the butter in a frying pan with the oil. Add the cubed bread and sautee until lightly brown. Remove to a cookie sheet (season if you wish) and bake in a 325 oven until golden.

Top the salad with the croutons and salad dressing. This salad would also be excellent topped with a fresh goat cheese or feta cheese. Maple Grove Farms, located in St. Johnsbury, VT, makes some amazing dressings, most of which would be great on a simple salad like this one: Strawberry Balsamic, Maple Fig, Champagne Vinaigrette.
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