fresh food

As I’ve switched locations (ie: coasts) for the time being, I’ll no longer be subscribing to a CSA. Here I can’t necessarily get all the wonderful fresh goodness I was used to in southern California (or the sunshine that goes with it).

Perhaps it was kismet, then, that my newly acquired job in a sense involves an organic farm. I was sent home last Thursday with fresh picked(or dug) heirloom tomatoes, basil, sweet potatoes, onion, garlic, and fingerling potatoes. Also freshly jarred homemade tomato sauce made of ingredients straight from the farm. Doesn’t get any better.

My parent’s 26th anniversary was a few weeks ago and they never went out to celebrate it (it’s a bit difficult to do with all the kids running around the house). On Friday, a family friend came and took the four kids out for pizza and tennis and insisted my parents relax and enjoy each other’s company. I took the opportunity to utilize my fresh produce and make them dinner (which I did enjoy with them. It’s hard to get rid of all of us at the same time …)

I wanted to use the fresh basil as soon as possible, so I incorporated that and the tomatoes into a pasta dish (naturally). I like making pasta dishes because of the variety of ways you can prepare them. While there are the typical flavors in most dishes across the board, you can still personalize them to exactly what you want- and I love almost any vegetarian food/spice/flavor that goes with pasta.

I googled around to find a recipe that would be a variation on the inventive dish I made that one lazy day. Anything with fresh tomatoes and basil would do. And I was in the mood for mozzarella cheese, so I added that in to my searches as well. I came up with a few promising ones that were basically just the pasta with each of the ingredients chopped separately and tossed in. But then I found the winner. In preparation, it is essentially each of the ingredients chopped separately and tossed in. But in actuality, the way this dish is prepared makes the flavors pop and stand out better than they do on their own.

Heirloom Tomato-Basil Pasta:
This recipe calls for feta cheese and olives, I omitted each of them and included my own portion of fresh mozzarella cheese.

I used these beautiful heirloom tomatoes.

And this fresh basil.

I cut up the tomatoes inside the bowl I mixed everything in, in an effort to contain all the juice they lost. I added 1/4 cup of olive oil to the bowl and left the tomatoes to sit while I prepared everything else- I cooked the pasta (I only had whole wheat egg noodles to work with, so that’s what I used), cut up the basil and mozzarella, took the garlic to the garlic press, added it to the tomato mixture, and all was ready to serve, just like that! I had more tomatoes and mozzarella to use up, so I made a small caprese salad (sans vinegar, I just don’t like it). I served the tomato mixture separate from the pasta- apparently there should be enough sauce for the entire pound of pasta, but it didn’t appear so to me. And I wouldn’t know with the leftovers either, as my mom liked it so much she ate the rest of the tomatoes out of the bowl.

Caprese salad with an heirloom tomato.

My take on the heirloom tomato-basil pasta.

It was so good the dog even wanted some!

While on the subject of fresh food, there is still some swiss chard in the garden outside, so I cut it  up and sauteed it with some fresh onion and garlic. I toasted two slices of bread, added sharp cheddar cheese and roasted pepper bruschetta, topped it with the sauteed swiss chard, and voila- a take on a childhood favorite- pizza bread!

Pizza bread with fresh ingredients!

And off the subject- on non-fresh foods- I recently made Pioneer Woman’s recipe for blackberry cobbler. No dry ingredient changes, full-fat, and with frozen blueberries that were picked from our bushes this past summer. Delicious, delicious, delicious. I loved the texture/consistency. The flavor was amazing. This is not a recipe to mess with. Make it and indulge yourself!

Blueberry Cobbler!

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a day for recipes

Life has been busy recently with a trip home, a weekend of celebrations, and a full work week. I’ve been looking for uses for my CSA batch from Sunday and have made a few nice dishes.

The broccolini was great over a bed of orzo, fresh tomato, feta, lemon juice, and olive oil.

I used the entire head of lettuce and a handful of kale for another of my standard Chinese-style stir-fries and ate it alongside some vegetable gyoza from Trader Joe’s.

lettuce, kale, egg, garlic, peanuts, crushed red pepper, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and a bit of sugar

I decided to try something “different” with the kale today. “Different” only meaning a different flavor of stir-fry … it’s a start! I sauteed a handful of it with olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, and black pepper, and added crumbled feta just before eating it. VERY tasty!

My win for the week may very well be the homemade pesto I made this morning. I used my friend Megan’s recipe, I love how simple it is with only five ingredients. My basil has been slowly dying over the week, so I knew that it was today or never. It was so easy to make! I just put the ingredients into my tiny food processor and blended them all together. The smells when I took the lid off were AMAZING! Fresh basil is something that words can’t describe. I love catching a whiff of it! This was the first time I attempted homemade pesto, and it was a fair first try. I over-did it a tiny bit on the lemon juice (accidentally!), and added extra garlic on purpose but maybe that wasn’t the best idea. However, I am confident this pesto will taste wonderful when paired with fresh tomatoes and cheese for a sandwich soon. PS, my friend Angie took the following picture; it is her book underneath the pesto. Angie is, in one week’s time, getting her Master’s of Fine Arts. Check out her portfolio here.

I currently have these muffins (with some changes) in the oven. They are not cooking through. It is a hot day. I’m taking a break from the kitchen while they continue to sit in the heat. Hopefully they’ll get to an edible point and will taste DELICIOUS. I am really excited about these muffins because 1. They are vegan, and 2. They are gluten free. Angie is staying with me and wanted to be able to eat them, so I used her gluten-free pancake and baking mix as a flour substitute. This mix already has some baking soda and baking powder in it so I only added another 1/2 tsp of each to my mix. I also used allspice instead of nutmeg because that is what I have in my pantry, did not include walnuts, and I added a whole avocado just to see what would happen. I did not measure the carrots, I probably used a little more than a cup. I started baking them at 300* because of the avocado, and over the course of this past hour (yes, an HOUR), have lowered it down to 280* and raised it to 340*. They look great and the batter tastes great, but the centers are still gooey. We’ll see how it goes …

Before being cooked. I’ll be taking them out of the oven in 5 minutes time, regardless of how they are in the middle. I find a way to use the parts that aren’t done …

Any suggestions as to what I did wrong with the muffins? The bit of reading I’ve done in the past few minutes makes me think it has to do with the baking soda or baking powder. Does it at all have to do with the use of gluten-free flour? I’ve never baked gluten-free before. (I’ve never baked fully vegan before either.) Any suggestions for next time? This recipe really does look good and I’d like to do it right!

I still have potatoes and patty-pan squash and more carrots to use from Sunday’s CSA pick up. Some sort of stir fry is probably in order again.

I’ll be linking this post with this week’s link party at inherchucks … you should check it out and add your recipes too! Happy weekend!

July 24th addendum- Read this post for the rest of the muffin saga, and how it all turned out for good.