September 30, 2013

End of Summer Grilled Pizza

We made this pizza in the heat of mid July on a night when the sun didn't set until nearly 9:00; we took our time putting together the pizzas while everyone gathered in the kitchen sipping beer and sneaking pieces of cheese and slices of tomatoes as we chopped away. This pizza came out of a surplus of eggplant and zucchini that Erica had received at the farmer's market and is a great way to use up the last of those summer veggies that are lingering around as we transition over to sweet potatoes, squashes and winter greens.

We chopped fresh herbs and let them marinate in olive oil while we prepared the veggies. We simply sliced and sauteed the eggplant on the stove for a few minutes on each side to cook them.  To assemble the pizza we rolled out the pizza dough and placed it on the grill, spread the herb and oil mixture on, layered zucchini, eggplant and tomato slices, covered with slices of cheddar and then closed the grill to allow everything to heat and meld together.

Grilled pizzas are the epitome of summer and are versatile in the way that you can put whatever you would like on them. So perhaps make one last grilled pizza this season before the grills get put away and enjoy the warmth of the grill on an autumn night.

Grilled Pizza with Summer Veggies
this is a super versatile recipe and you can feel free to put whatever mix of toppings and cheese you'd like

One small zucchini sliced in 1/4 inch discs
A few handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 small eggplants, quartered
olive oil
herbs of choice
cheddar cheese, sliced
pizza dough

Allow your pizza dough to rise before using.  Slice up your vegetables.  Chop your herbs and cover with olive oil, enough to spread over pizza crust.  In a frying pan on the stove, saute your eggplant in olive oil with a bit of salt and pepper for a few minutes on each side until they start to soften.  Heat up the grill and place pizza dough right on the edge with a bit overhanging to allow for flipping.  Let dough cook for a few minutes on one side. Once it starts to crisp up flip the pizza dough.  Spread oil and herb mixture, layer on veggies and place cheese on top. Close grill and let pizza cook another few minutes until cheese is melted and dough is cooked all the way through. 

September 17, 2013

Fruit & Cheese Plate

Autumn in New England brings about a whole new crop of fruit.  As peaches and berries come to a sad end (for some) the trees are bursting with all new kinds of fruits.  Erica says this is the busiest time of year for their farm as pears and apples begin their harvest.  Most everyone loves a good spread of fruit and cheese so when we were surveying the bounty of fruit we decided to just use it all and pair it with some locally made cheeses, bread and honey.  

We used Gala apples, Seckel pears, Italian Prune plums and grapes; all of which came straight from the orchard. It was my first time experiencing Seckel pears and the grapes.  The grapes were similar, but different, to the ones that you would find in the grocery store.  They were juicy and the darker ones were sweet; tasting exactly like grape juice does. Seckel pears are small, almost bite sized, and beautiful with their shades of green and red. 

The cheese selection consisted of an herby chèvre, a nice sharp cheddar and a blue cheese.   We sliced, spread and drizzled and ended up with a variety of different combinations but we definitely had some favorites. Tangy blue cheese with the Seckel pears was a nice contrast. The blue cheese was quite tangy and the pears were crunchy and sweet.  

Apple with cheddar is always a classic combination; perfectly paired in any setting. 

I think the winning combination was the chèvre with the plums and grapes. The cheese was soft, easily spreadable and struck the perfect balance of sweet and savory when accompanied by the fruit.  We drizzled wildflower honey over top and it was quite tasty. 

Fruit and cheese, though maybe not the healthiest dinner, is definitely a favorite dinner. "We could eat this every night!" we exclaimed every time we bit in to a new combination.  It is an easy, effortlessly beautiful, way to enjoy the bounty of fruit this time of year. 

We enjoyed this spread on the grass in the front yard on one of the first chilly nights of the fall.  The sun was quickly setting behind the crop of apple trees, a stark reminder that fall is upon us. Invite friends over, slice up your favorite fruits and cheeses and enjoy a glass of wine. Oh, and be sure to let us know about your favorite combinations!

Fruit & Cheese Plate
This isn't so much a recipe as it is a suggestion, feel free to choose fruits and cheese that are to your liking

Fruits of your choice: Apples, Pears, Grapes, Plums
A variety of cheeses including hard and soft cheese; pick what you like!

Slice up your cheeses, fruit and bread.  Try different combinations!

September 3, 2013

Golden Plum Jam Cocktail

When you live in New England, now is the time to start preserving summer’s bounty.  It is honestly amazing how quickly summer fades into fall and fall turns into winter.  And once winter’s snowy days are upon us, it is difficult to remember the abundance of fruit and vegetables we were once surrounded by, even for fruit and vegetable growers.  That is why making jam, canning, freezing, and pickling, are such important parts of New England history.  

I normally make a few batches of jam; the type of jam I make always depends on what we have available and what unmarketable fruit we have in the cooler.  This year, I made a few batches of Golden Plum Jam, made with a mixture of Early Gold and Shiro plums.  Plums come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and the golden plums might be the most striking of all of them, however, they are extremely delicate and prone to bruising.  So with our bruised plums I set out to create something delicious we could enjoy in the winter months.  Plum is one of our favorite jams here at the farm because it has a natural tartness to it, which works well with the sugary sweetness of jam.  

So when when we set out to make jam cocktails, I knew I had just the thing, a perfectly sweet and tart mixture that would make a drink sweet, but not cloyingly so. We decided to use fresh lavender to give the cocktail a bit of an herby kick. We simply shook the lavender buds in the shaker with the other ingredients. You can chose to serve the drink with the buds in it, as we did, or strain them out. If you have a bit more time you might consider infusing your lavender buds with the vodka. This drink would also be terrific topped with a little sparkling water to add some bubbly, if that's what you prefer.

Golden Plum Jam Cocktail

1 tbsp golden plum jam
2 oz vodka
1/4 tsp fresh lavender
1 tsp honey

Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice until chilled.  Strain into glass and serve with additional ice cubes if desired. 

August 16, 2013

Apricot Basil Tart

We've been on a bit of a hiatus due to typical summer things including vacations and being in the throes of prime fruit season. We recently found ourselves in Cape Cod for a long weekend with friends. One evening as we stood back from the picnic table where everyone was happily slurping up steamed clams we began to discuss our next recipe while sipping gin and tonics. Erica mentioned that apricots were in season and suggested we make something with them. 

Living in New England means that you won’t often see apricots at your local farmer’s market.  They aren’t the most common stone fruit grown here, and they definitely aren’t the most winter hardy.  With that being said, if you see some at a farmer’s market, buy them! Don’t wait a week, because they may be gone. In part, apricots are so special around here because there is such a limited window in which to get them. One of the most wonderful things about where we live is that, due to the changing seasons, you are forced to appreciate certain things like moderate temperatures and fresh produce!

So, a few days after Cape Cod we convened in Erica's kitchen. She procured a small bag of apricots that she had hidden from her family so that we could use them. She sliced one in half and after tasting it we immediately knew that we wouldn't need to do much to make something delicious. We decided to keep it simple and make a tart, garnishing the apricots with nothing more than an herby sugar, in this case basil. The tart came together fast and is not overly sweet, the basil sugar balancing out the slightly tart apricots just perfectly. We highly recommend seeking out apricots, but any stone fruit would be equally as good. We made two tarts, the second one we added raspberries to since we didn't have quite enough apricots and that was also a delicious combination. So feel free to play around with what you have available!

Apricot Basil Tart

1 pint ripe apricots, halved
1 handful basil leaves
⅓ cup sugar
I sheet of frozen puff pastry

Let puff pastry thaw for about an hour. Preheat oven to 425.  In the meantime, rinse basil and pat dry. Add basil and sugar together in a food processor and pulse until well combined.  Lay puff pastry on a sheet of parchment paper and arrange apricot halves.  Sprinkle the basil-sugar over the fruit and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.

July 3, 2013

Coconut Raspberry Parfaits

My first memory of being at Erica's orchard when fruit was in bloom is from a few years ago. It was an evening in early summer, the kind of night where you still need a sweatshirt as the sun goes down. Me and our friend Lizzie stopped by to see Erica at the end of a weekend before we headed back to Boston. Erica took us on a walk through the orchard and as we walked through the rows of various fruit I was amazed at how much was growing essentially in her backyard. 

We immediately began plucking ripe raspberries from their vines and popping them in to our mouths. A few years later this still amazes me. A few weeks ago, as we were seeking out rhubarb for our strawberry rhubarb ice cream I again found myself plucky plump raspberries from the vine and knew that our next recipe would have to include them. We decided to pair the fresh picked raspberries with a coconut cream to create mini parfaits. These are a perfect dessert for summer; while still being an indulgent dessert they feel pretty light. 

Whipping the chilled coconut milk, white chocolate and egg whites makes for a lovely airy cream filling.  They can be made in to single serve parfaits or layered in to a tray to be cut in to squares. Be sure to refrigerate the leftovers. Also, feel free to substitute your favorite fruit in here.  Perhaps add some blueberries for a festive red, white and blue dessert. 

Coconut Raspberry Parfaits 

Coconut Filling 
2 egg whites
½ tsp cream of tartar
2 cans of Coconut Milk (chilled overnight)
½ cup white chocolate (chopped)
½ cup powdered sugar

Graham Cracker Filling
2 ½ cups graham crackers (crushed)
½ cup butter
½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup sugar Raspberries (about a pint)

To make the coconut filling beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together and then beat on high until the egg whites form stiff peaks, put in a large bowl and set aside. Clean mixer bowl thoroughly and then beat the coconut fat that should have solidified in the can (be careful to exclude the water-y substance on the bottom of the can) on high until light and fluffy. Melt the white chocolate in double boiler. Add egg whites, coconut, white chocolate, and sugar together and fold to incorporate.

To make the graham cracker crust add crushed graham crackers, shredded coconut, and sugar to a bowl. Melt butter and add, stirring to incorporate.

Layer graham cracker crust, coconut filling, and raspberries several times. Top with toasted coconut and almonds if desired. Enjoy!

June 26, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream

Having grown up on a fruit orchard, my family and I have what I think is a unique perspective on both strawberries and rhubarb. Strawberries are thought of as sweet, juicy little treats that linger here in Connecticut for only about two weeks; on the farm we usually say that is two weeks too short for anyone eating them, and two weeks too long for anyone picking them. Ask anyone who has picked strawberries as a summer job, and not just for pleasure, it is a backbreaking endeavor. No matter how many berries you eat, it doesn’t seem to make the deal any sweeter.  

In the heat of a late June afternoon, bending over to pick yet another tiny red berry, you can grow to dislike strawberries, hate even. Luckily, we have finally given our own strawberry operation a rest, and we are able to enjoy strawberry season by leisurely picking strawberries at our own pace and on our own accord at some of our neighboring farms. Strawberries have never tasted so sweet!

Rhubarb is a spring staple around here.  We usually just cut it up and make compote or sauce from it, which we then proceed to add to anything and everything.  It is great in yogurt, on ice cream, on toast, and even on its own. Over the years I have gotten the impression that the general public does not view rhubarb as such a pivotal part of their diet. We freeze pounds and pounds of it, so that there isn’t one winter month that goes by that we have to go without. If you do take a liking to rhubarb, I would recommend devoting a small corner of your garden to it; it is a wonderful plant that will dutifully return year after year.

The combination of these two spring beauties is wonderful due to their widely contrasting flavors.  The tart rhubarb pairs wonderfully with the sweetness of the strawberries. So while strawberry ice cream might be good, strawberry rhubarb might just be better.

Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream

Ice Cream Base:
2 cups milk
4 tsp. cornstarch
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 tbsp. (1.5 oz) cream cheese, softened
Rhubarb Compote:
1 pound rhubarb (chopped into ¼ inch pieces)
1 pint strawberries (sliced)
1 vanilla bean
¾ cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
To make the ice cream base add ¼ cup milk to the cornstarch and mix so that no chunks remain. Add all remaining ingredients except for the cream cheese to a medium saucepan and heat over medium high heat until it comes to a boil. Once boiling, add the cornstarch slurry and continue to boil for another minute.  Place cream cheese in a large heatproof bowl, and add about a ½ cup of the boiling milk/cream mixture over it.  With a wire whisk incorporate the cream cheese into the hot mixture until completely creamy, and then add the remaining hot mixture. Cover your ice cream base with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. In the meantime, add all the ingredients for the compote to a sauce pan and bring to a boil, once boiling, reduce heat and simmer until rhubarb is completely broken down.  Cool compote in the refrigerator and once cool add to the ice cream base.  Once the base and compote have been incorporated add to an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Enjoy!